Jan 18, 2009

The watchdogs that didn't bark

James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times peeks his head into L.A. County's Hall of Administration and notices that the supervisors now outnumber the reporters who are there to cover them:
A slow plague has reduced the corps of journalists who cover county government to four. That's just four reporters (and one of them has other responsibilities) who focus a critical eye on the biggest local government in America -- a $22-billion behemoth that provides policing, healthcare, welfare and more to a county of nearly 10 million people.

Some news outlets have gone out of business. Others discontinued regular county coverage. Small nameplates on one wall display the names of the dead and or merely departed: the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, the Outlook, the Daily Journal, the Newhall Signal, the Whittier News, KFWB radio, KABC-TV, the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Pasadena Star News.

The daily newspapers in Long Beach, Torrance and Pasadena all used to station reporters here. But that changed when Singleton snapped up the organizations over the last decade. His eight L.A.-area dailies serve vastly different communities, but they now rely on just one reporter, Troy Anderson, for all stories on county government.
County coverage has been diminishing for years, and the slippage only promises to accelerate as newspapers continue to cut and consolidate. It should be noted that these same eight MediaNews newspapers already are without a single reporter in Washington, DC or Sacramento, and most have too few reporters to keep a watchful eye on all of the cities in their respective circulation areas.

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