The Public Publisher: What's wrong with this picture?

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Frank Chopp

Your support of Crosscut enables our coverage of state policy in Olympia.

It’s not very often that I leap up from the couch when I see a local TV news story about Governor Gregoire’s latest press conference.  But the other evening, that is exactly what I did. 

Just before I pressed pause on the remote control and snapped a photo of the news conference with my cell phone camera.

It wasn’t the news that caught my attention. Seated at the press table were just half a dozen reporters and one of them was Crosscut’s Olympia correspondent John Stang. Most of us probably imagine the governor's press conferences as a made-for-TV scene; a roomful of reporters furiously scribbling on notepads as cameras flash and a worried-looking communications director points to competing questioners. 

Instead, this was a picture of who’s left standing in a major state capitol press briefing. Fewer than a dozen reporters were covering a $75 billion state expenditure.

Sure, Gregoire is a lame-duck Governor, but press coverage of the upcoming (and potentially historic) legislative session has been equally sparse.

The decline in state government media coverage — fewer "ants at the picnic," as some say  has been well chronicled over the years. But I felt this photo spoke louder than a lengthy report out of Washington, D.C.

Our man in Olympia recalls not too many years ago when 25-30 reporters swarmed over the state capitol, competing for stories, insights and scoops. Erik Smith at Washington State Wire had a similar take in a story back in April. The consumer (We the People) benefited from this due diligence.

There are still a few news organizations that still populate Olympia. NPR, the Seattle Times, AP, the Tacoma News Tribune, The Herald of Everett, the Spokane Spokesman-Review, and new digital properties like Washington State Wire and Publicola — along with some local TV — are to be credited for dedicating resources to reporting on state government policy. As our federal government increasingly relies on the states to lead, news media like Crosscut need to be vigilant.

And to be vigilant, Crosscut relies on your support. We receive no public funding and so your contributions help to keep reporters like Crosscut's John Stang in the picture.

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About the Authors & Contributors

Greg Shaw

Greg Shaw

Greg Shaw is a senior director in Microsoft’s strategy group.