I read with sad interest your "Statehouse Exodus" story (April/May) on the erosion of resources and reporters in state capitals. I live with the reality, and fear that as the numbers of flashlights go dark, we might never know about the self-dealing and waste that go on in state governments everywhere.
While I commend you for the story, I am afraid that the rigid definitions used in your reporting fail to reflect the true commitment by The Dallas Morning News and other newspapers to maintaining strong capital coverage. The News sent several reporters to Austin for weeks at a time to cover the session on special topics, but AJR declined to consider their contribution as "session help" because they didn't stay the full five months. We had specialty reporters on transportation, energy and higher education watch committee hearings, contact lawmakers, consult experts and find the local families affected by proposed state policy changes. And their efforts also were not counted as statehouse help. In addition, a full-time reporter in our Capitol bureau was not counted as a statehouse reporter – despite his many stories on state political figures and election issues – because he also specializes in national politics. I am concerned your definitions make a dire situation appear even bleaker.
Austin Bureau Chief
Dallas Morning News