Fewer Newspaper Reporters, More Digital Journalists
By Sandy K. Johnson
How has Washington reporting changed over the last five years? More niche digital publications, fewer newspaper reporters.
Overall, the number of journalists holding congressional credentials is up: 6,816 in 2014 compared with 6,544 in 2009.
Focusing on just Senate-credentialed journalists, a more revealing picture emerges, according to a Pew Research Center analysis. Daily newspaper reporters fell from 608 in 2009 to 576 today. Niche reporters increased from 500 to 589 today. The number of foreign press and wire service journalists was mostly stable – 328 foreign journalists and 216 wire service reporters.
The upshot? “Journalism in Washington is full of opportunities, it’s bustling, and the numbers are higher than they used to be. But the makeup of that press corps has changed significantly,” said Jesse Holcomb, associate director of research at Pew Research Center.
One dramatic change is in regional reporting from Washington, those reporters based in the capital who specialize in local and regional angles. The Regional Reporters Association has just 59 members today, compared with 200 in the mid-1990s. Holcomb said there is less contextual coverage of what Washington decisions mean for local readers on subjects ranging from tax dollars to highway maintenance and education. “The link that tethers (congressional) districts, cities and communities to Washington is more strained than it was in the past,” he said.
Reporting from Washington also is more Congress-centric. A Pew analysis found that 71 percent of newspaper stories from Washington quote Congress members or staff, with far less coverage of federal agencies.
One bright note: While the public gives the media low marks for accuracy, independence and fairness, two-thirds of them believe the news media’s watchdog role keeps elected officials from doing things they shouldn’t, Holcomb said.