Mainstream media cut back on statehouse coverage as special interests launch

Editor's note: This is a preview of a story that will appear in the spring 2013 print issue of Gateway Journalism Review.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – If Joseph Pulitzer could return to Missouri’s state capital, he’d probably recognize a recent development that was familiar during his time: politicians publishing newspapers.

At the beginning of this legislative session, Rod Jetton, a former House speaker, launched a startup weekly, the Missouri Times. The newspaper and its website promotion promised “a different kind of media outlet” that would become “Missouri’s newspaper of politics and culture.”

The journal’s arrival represented a new phase in the evolution of Missouri government coverage. As traditional news organizations have diminished, new media platforms have stepped in.

New technologies also have changed the pace and method of government reporting. Journalists now reach people with bits of information through blog postings and Twitter.

Covering state government, especially during legislative sessions, has always been a foot race. Now reporters no longer have the luxury of daily deadlines, which before provided time to take a breath and to put events into context.

Journalists now deliver a steady stream of information through the Internet. All reporters have “a deadline every minute,” a demand once faced only by wire-service reporters.

“It’s always been a job where you are doing multiple things at once,” said Virginia Young, chief of bureau for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “But it’s just multiplied tremendously given the electronic coverage.”

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