My latest op-ed, title above, appeared in The Virginian-Pilot Thursday. When the Pew Research Journalism Project released its report last week, I couldn’t help but think of Julian Walker, the former statehouse reporter for our paper. The loss of Julian last month came on the heels of other losses of coverage in Virginia – this article mentions a lot of them.
The decline in statehouse reporters coincides with the decline in newspaper reporters in general. As I open my VaNews each morning, newspapers without paywalls have become the exception. But paywalls can’t make up for the loss of ad revenue and readership, the result being smaller newspapers put out by ever shrinking staffs.
And less coverage of what’s going on in Richmond.
All of this leads to a focus on national topics – there are plenty of folks covering that – while local topics are ignored. Read the report – and note how many times I’ve said the same thing as those quoted there. The closer government is to us, the more it affects us. We need that coverage.
How about some in-depth reporting on Virginia’s failure to contribute its full share to the cost of public schools? The legislature just passed a budget and didn’t fix this problem. When the state shirks its responsibility, localities have to make up the difference. And we know what that means: higher local taxes, like real estate.
Or how about any of the reports from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission? The latest one, issued last month, looks at the size and impact of federal spending in Virginia. Given that such spending is a major driver of our economy, particularly in Hampton Roads, shouldn’t there have been some reports about this?
What about the effects of a slew of new laws that went into effect on July 1? Shouldn’t we have been talking about them before they were passed, instead of after?
During the General Assembly session, I have a number of sources that I monitor for news, but I know I missed a lot of them; after all, it is impossible to monitor over 3,000 bills.
Had it not been for an article in Tuesday’s paper, I’d not have known that a law was passed prohibiting doctors from marking up the cost of lab work. And if my delegate, who sponsored the legislation, mentioned it in one of his emails, I missed it.
I don’t have an answer to the problem but I know we are, as a society, worse off by not having this coverage.
My column appears in The Virginian-Pilot every week, usually on Thursdays. You can see the columns as they are published here, or navigate to them from the PilotOnline.com homepage by clicking on Opinion and then choosing my name at the bottom of the dropdown list. You can also see the columns by liking my Facebook page. Although my column appears weekly, I am not and have never been an employee of The Virginian-Pilot nor am I paid for my contributions to the paper.Follow @vpaige