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Birth of an uber-bureau

Nov 20, 2008

By Dan

Today when I opened up my Miami Herald the front page included an important story about Governor Crist's plan to increase college tuition to aid our ailing universities. The story itself was significant, as was the fact that the byline came from two St Petersburg Times reporters. Today, I guess, marks the beginning of the consolidation of the Tallahassee bureaus of these two newspapers. Undoubtedly, the move was an attempt to avoid further reporter layoffs that have already decimated the ranks of journalists in Tallahassee, in Florida and nationally.

If it staves off further cuts in staffing it may be a good thing. After all, having a half dozen reporters means the uber-bureau will theoretically be able to cover more since duplication will be reduced. If, however, it becomes just another way to cut the total staff covering the capitol then readers will get the worst of both worlds: less reporters and less competition. It may also create pressure on other newspapers to combine staffs so that they can compete with the larger bureau. How this experiment unfolds is largely unknown, but it is important to keep on eye on it because keeping a vibrant press corps in our state's capitol is crucial.

I recognize that economic pressures are impacting all industries including newspapers. But in many respects it is even more important to have a dynamic and, yes, competitive press in difficult times. It is important that there be robust reporting on how we handle the great challenges of our State. We do need more eyes looking over our shoulders as we cut billions from our state's budget. Remember, governance and civic responsibility are shortchanged when the public lacks sufficient information to allow them to properly engage these issues.

So good luck to the Miamiheraldstpetersburgtimes bureau. We'll be watching as should you!

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Color me dubious. I hope to see thriving news media but the drift to merger is part of the overall problem in our economy. It's how we get to "too big to fail." That won't be the case with news media. On the other hand, the development of cooperative reporting was how my former employer, the AP, was formed 150 years ago.

Good thoughts but I think the "experiment" will only have a bad outcome — the suits will use this as a way to consolidate other bureaus resulting in less reporters in town.

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