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Mass. Newspapers Are Leading the Way in Failing to Cover State Politics

Full-time statehouse reporters are on the decline nationwide.
Full-time statehouse reporters are on the decline nationwide.Pew Research Journalism Project

Just six percent of Massachusetts newspapers have a reporter assigned to physically cover statehouse politics, the lowest percentage of any state in the US.

That starkly low percentage comes from a Pew Research study of statehouse press coverage, which analyzed the 1,592 journalists assigned to cover state politics across the country. The study found that, thanks to severe cutbacks across the journalism industry over the past decade, the number of journalists covering capitol building goings-on has significantly decreased. From 2003 to 2014, the number of newspaper-based full-time statehouse reporters dropped 35 percent to just over 300 people.

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That dearth of reporters covering state affairs has Pew worried that state politics aren’t being covered as thoroughly as possible. With fewer eyes on lawmakers, important stories could be left uncovered.

Those problems are particularly acute in Massachusetts. While about 30 percent of newspapers nationwide have a reporter in the capital covering state politics, just six percent of Massachusetts newspapers do so, the lowest ratio in the nation.

That six percent number is particularly worrisome given that the capital city of Boston is also the largest city in the state. That’s less prohibitive than having a reporter move to, say, Albany in cold upstate New York, as New York statehouse reporters do.

Susan Moeller, the news editor of the Cape Cod Times, explained to Pew the big reason her paper was forced to drop its two full-time statehouse reporters: the recession. “You can lay off your statehouse reporter or you can lay off somebody covering your town that is nearer and dearer to people’s hearts,” she said.

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