Newport Daily News no longer sending a State House reporterJanuary 5th, 2012 at 3:25 pm by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site
The Newport Daily News will not send longtime political reporter Joe Baker to Providence to cover this year’s session of the General Assembly that began Tuesday for the first time in memory, WPRI.com confirmed on Thursday. Baker, who joined the paper in January 1984, is no longer writing his political column but remains on staff.
Daily News editor Sheila Mullowney minced no words about the decision, describing it as a disappointing move and one of a number the paper’s parent company is making to deal with the financial challenges facing print media. She said she hopes the absence of a Daily News reporter at the State House is only temporary.
“We feel right now we can’t afford to send somebody to Providence during the session,” Mullowney, a former president of both the Rhode Island Press Association and the New England Associated Press News Executives Association, told WPRI.com. “It’s unfortunate. It’s not an easy decision to make.” Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed herself is from Newport.
Baker’s absence is another sign of newspapers’ diminished presence on Smith Hill, which will now be down to The Providence Journal’s three-person bureau – Kathy Gregg, Randy Edgar and Phil Marcelo – and The Pawtucket Times’ Jim Baron. The AP’s David Klepper files reports for the wire service, as well. Most broadcast and online outlets assign coverage based on events.
The same retrenchment has occurred on Beacon Hill in Massachusetts, according to CommonWealth Magazine.
“It’s a financial reality that a paper of our size needs to focus on the local community in order to be competitive,” Mullowney said. “We feel that a lot of the developments at the State House are covered by The Associated Press, and we’re going to be focusing the resources we do have on Aquidneck Island and Newport County.”
Daily News journalists will continue to file stories about state-level political issues affecting the communities they cover, Mullowney said, noting that as she spoke her staff was reaching out to local leaders who attended today’s municipal summit convened by Governor Chafee.
The Daily News moved aggressively to shore up its finances in 2009 by putting its online content in a digital replica behind a high-priced paywall, a move that drew national attention and is now being emulated by The Providence Journal. More recently, the paper has faced new competition from AOL’s hyperlocal Patch website.
“I’m not happy about doing this this session, but I also do think that given all of the other competition that we have on the island and everything that’s going on, this is where we need to focus,” Mullowney said.
There are other examples of community newspapers having a local reporter cover politics remotely, such as Jim Hand, a veteran reporter at The Sun Chronicle who regularly files articles about state and federal lawmakers’ involvement in hot-button debates.
(image via O’Dwyer’s Blog)