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Who’s covering state-level politics, anyway? Are they… suitable?

Eleanor Clift is very upset that nobody is covering state-level politics: “On a good day, state news is under-covered, especially compared to its importance. While multitudes of reporters in Washington chronicle the gridlocked Congress, the number of full-time reporters covering 50 statehouses has fallen to roughly 300, down from 500 in 2003, according to the Pew Research Center.” But is the situation that there is no coverage, or simply that the coverage is not by the right sort?

The decline in reporters working for mainstream or legacy media outlets has been filled in part by journalists hired by specialty news outlets like the Alaska Budget Report, which charges $2,397 for a year’s subscription, and the pro-free market Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. Mark Jurkowitz, one of the authors of the Pew study, says the ideologically driven reporting tends to be on the right. Pew found only one organization in North Carolina identifying as progressive. “With resources stretched as thin as they are and reporters caught up in the day to day ping-pong, enterprise reporting or looking for scandal goes by the wayside.”

…Well. The more I think of that, the less seriously I take that last sentence. The media is still highly likely to pick up on a state-level scandal (any state-level scandal) involving a Republican; what coverage we have of state-level scandals involving Democrats pretty much comes by us horrid aforementioned ideologues bringing up the subject*.  I suspect that what bugs Eleanor Clift here is that there is a lack of grassroots Lefties doing coverage on the state level.

I also suspect that Clift will hating hearing why that would be.  To put it very simply: the Left simply cares more about federal policy than it does about state policy.  State policy, to them, is something that can be ignored when convenient; when it’s not convenient, there’s always Congress or the judiciary system there to overrule it. Either way, why ‘waste’ good people on it when they can be off yelling about Senators and Congressmen? – Oh, sure, the Left will attack governors. Governors are a traditional source of Presidential candidates. But get below that level and interest abruptly drops off.

None of this should be taken as an indication that the Right is doing fantastic at covering state-level politics.  Indeed, we’re barely at the level of ‘poor.’  So the more that informed citizens do in the future, the better off we’ll all be…

Moe Lane (crosspost)

*See the fascinating story of Leland Yee for details along those lines. Note that Ms. Clift forgot to mention that story, despite the fact that it was an excellent example of the lack of national media interest in a state-level criminal case.

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