WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Little Local Coverage of Recent Elections

Dec 9, 2014

The gutting of newsroom staffs had a negative impact on local coverage of the fall elections.

That’s a conclusion from the article “A Big Election With Little Local Journalism” by David Sirota on the creators.com website.  He asks, “What if you held an election and nobody showed up to cover it? Americans have now discovered the answer: You get an election with lots of paid ads, but with little journalism, context or objective facts.”

Sirota goes on to write about the lack of local reporters due to staff cutbacks and budget constraints.  He said reporters end up analyzing ads instead of covering issues, or if it’s presumed a race won’t be close it does not receive any coverage.

Shop Talk panelist Rich Moreno said all the cutbacks at newspapers in recent years have had a detrimental effect on democracy.  He does not anticipate the trend toward smaller newsrooms will change.

Moreno also pointed out many candidates try to control the message by running ads or by going directly to voters through social media.  He said this allows them to avoid pesky questions from reporters.

Jasmine Crighton said the Obama administration has worked hard to control the message, even limiting access to photographers.

Crighton also said newspapers are not the only ones feeling the pinch.  Broadcast newsroom staffs have been cut and younger TV reporters are not receiving the same amount of guidance they did in the past.

Rich Egger believes politicians deserve some of the blame for the drop-off in election coverage.  Those who stand a good chance of winning sometimes won’t engage their opponent or talk with reporters for fear of committing a gaffe.