WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Statehouse Reporting Pool Grows Smaller while Candidates' Pocketbooks Grow Larger

Aug 14, 2018

The major party candidates for Illinois governor –Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner and Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker -- are spending huge amounts of their own money on their campaigns as well as down ballot contests.  Meanwhile, fewer reporters are based at the Illinois State Capitol to keep tabs on them. 

So are Rauner and Pritzker pretty much able to go around the media and just run their campaigns through broadcast and online ads?  What does that mean for journalism?  What does that mean for democracy?

Shop Talk panelist Will Buss said we should all be concerned about the amount of money being spent on those campaigns. He also said the number of reporters covering the Illinois statehouse is a fraction of what it once was, which means the General Assembly is not being watched as closely as it was in the past.

Buss said more reporters are needed to keep people informed.  He pointed to WBEZ’s reporting that raised questions about the way a Legionnaire’s disease outbreak was handled at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy.

Panelist Jasmine Crighton said it must be a good time to work in public relations for a political campaign. She said candidates won’t hesitate to circumvent journalists if they have the money to do it.

Crighton also emphasized the role journalists play in keeping people informed.  She said a TV station exposed the misuse of public funds that led to Articles of Impeachment against justices on the West Virginia Supreme Court.

Panelist Rich Egger also said the West Virginia story underscores the value of journalism. Regarding the spending in the Illinois governor’s race, he said candidates need to be vetted before they get into office but that’s becoming a challenge with so few reporters on the beat.

Jasmine Crighton is News Director of NEWS3 at Western Illinois University and Will Buss is the Director of Student Publications at WIU.