Only four media outlets in Illinois invest in a full-time reporter dedicated to covering Capitol news. That’s down from 26 Statehouse bureaus in 2001. That means there are fewer “eyes and ears of the public” covering the Statehouse at a time when the chronic dysfunction and political gridlock have culminated in a lack of a state budget for two consecutive years.
A BGA Idea Forum in Springfield May 8 looked at “The Future of News: Covering the Capitol,” exploring the changing landscape of Capitol coverage and how it affects the public’s understanding of the state of our state.
BGA President and CEO Andy Shaw moderated the panel of reporters, editors and philanthropists: John O’Connor, political writer for the Associated Press; Angie Muhs, executive editor of the State Journal-Register; Natasha Korecki, senior reporter for POLITICO Illinois; Chris Krug, publisher and general manager of Illinois News Network; and Clark Bell, retired as the McCormick Foundation’s Journalism Program Director.
Despite fewer reporters covering the Capitol full time, news consumers have far more options for how and where they get their news. These challenging times in Illinois require a citizenry that understands what it’s all about, said Charlie Wheeler, the BGA’s special guest who spent decades covering the Capitol for the Sun-Times and who currently directs the Public Affairs Reporting graduate program at the University of Illinois-Springfield. The challenge to the audience and to journalists is to consider how to best provide Capitol coverage so citizens know what’s going on.