The number of reporters who cover state capitols full-time for U.S. newspapers has declined 34% since 2014, according to a new Pew Research Center study.

How we did this

This Pew Research Center analysis examines the decline in full-time statehouse reporters at U.S. newspapers over both the short term (from 2014 to 2022) and the longer term (from 2003 to 2022). The analysis covering the 2014-2022 period is drawn from a new Pew Research Center study, while the analysis covering the 2003-2022 period is based on a separate analysis that combines information from the now-defunct American Journalism Review (AJR) with information collected by the Center as part of its new study.

To keep comparisons as consistent as possible over the 2003-2022 period, Pew Research Center examined statehouse staffing levels at newspapers that were accounted for in the last two AJR tallies – 2003 and 2009 – and in the Center’s own 2014 and 2022 reports. Researchers removed any newspapers from the original AJR cohort that had ceased publication or joined a chain/content partnership with shared employees after 2003. As a result, 194 newspapers are included in the overall trend from 2003 to 2022. This analysis focuses on the two most recent tallies by AJR – in 2003 and 2009 – since a consistent list could not be constructed for years earlier than the 2003 AJR study.

The AJR studies contained two tallies of statehouse coverage – full-time newspaper reporters and “session help” (journalists who contribute only when legislatures are in session). However, the “session help” statistics tracked by AJR do not include explicit numbers for those journalists. For this reason, the AJR numbers referenced here refer only to full-time statehouse reporters and are not directly comparable with the 2022 full-time data, which includes both year-round journalists and the few session-only reporters identified in 2022. To maintain consistency with the AJR studies, the 2014 Pew Research Center data in this analysis shows only year-round reporters and no session-only reporters. Read the report’s methodology for further details.

In 2003 and 2009, 50 news organizations in this cohort of 194 newspapers had at least one session-help reporter. In 2014, 34 news organizations among this cohort of newspapers employed session-only reporters.

This analysis draws from a report funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Arnold Ventures. It is the latest report in Pew Research Center’s ongoing investigation of the state of news, information and journalism in the digital age, a research program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

A bar chart showing that the number of full-time newspaper statehouse reporters declined between 2014 and 2022

There are 245 newspaper reporters who cover the statehouse full time in 2022, down from 374 in 2014, the last time the Center conducted a similar study. The decrease in newspaper reporters covering the 50 state capitols comes amid a broader decline in newsroom employment at U.S. newspapers, as well as sharp reductions in newspapers’ advertising and circulation revenue during the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the decline, newspapers continue to employ more full-time statehouse reporters than any other kind of news organization, according to the study, which examines the state capitol press corps across a variety of media outlet types. Nonprofit media organizations rank second behind newspapers in the number of full-time statehouse reporters they employ (187), followed by television stations (114).

Over the longer term, the decline in newspaper reporters who cover state capitols full time is even more pronounced than what has occurred since 2014.

To get a better sense of how newspaper staffing at statehouses has changed since the turn of the century, the Center consulted earlier studies by the now-defunct American Journalism Review (AJR), which conducted five tallies of newspapers’ statehouse staffing levels between 1998 and 2009.

A line graph showing that full-time statehouse reporting staff continues to decline at newspapers

To ensure comparability over time, this additional analysis does not include all of the newspapers identified in the Center’s newest study, but only the 194 newspapers identified across each of the AJR and Pew Research Center studies from 2003 to the present. At those newspapers, full-time statehouse staffing has declined by at least 44% since 2003 – from 368 full-time reporters to 206 this year.

It is likely that full-time statehouse reporting staff among this group of newspapers has declined by more than 44% since 2003. That’s because the Center’s 2022 data employs a broader definition of full-time statehouse reporting than the AJR data by combining full-time, year-round reporters with those who work only during the legislative session. For more information about this analysis, read the “How we did this” box.

Kirsten Worden  is a former research assistant focusing on journalism research at Pew Research Center.
Katerina Eva Matsa  is a director of news and information research at Pew Research Center.
Elisa Shearer  is a senior researcher focusing on news and information research at Pew Research Center.