May 25, 2022 - Politics

The journalists who hold North Carolina's legislature accountable

Data: Pew Research Center; Note: Includes part-time and contract workers; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

North Carolina is among the states that have seen an increase in the number of reporters covering the statehouse, according to a study released in April by Pew Research Center.

Driving the news: The number of reporters assigned to the legislative beat in North Carolina has increased to 54, up from 47 in 2014, the study found.

  • Of note: 20 of those reporters cover the General Assembly full time.

Why it matters: North Carolina's legislature is tasked with doling out billions of dollars every year through the budget, and, hand-in-hand with the governor, setting policy and passing laws.

  • Reporters — when they're doing their job right — serve as a check on both of those forces. Without them, it would be much easier for politicians to pass self-serving legislation or misspend your tax dollars.

Yes, but: Our state has the seventh highest number of legislative reporters, but with long sessions and shrinking newspaper staff, journalists are increasingly stretched thin. That makes it harder for them to hold public officials accountable.

Lucille's thought bubble: Sometimes it feels like thankless work, being a journalist. Almost all the time, someone is upset about what I've reported, how I wrote about it or what I didn't cover.

  • But I think that's what makes reporters all the more important, right? We're human, and we get things wrong sometimes. But then we try and make it right, because we care about bringing you the information you need to make the best decisions for yourself and your family.
  • State political reporters are a special (read: weird) breed of journalist. They're nerdy and obscenely passionate about odd things, but they're in the state legislative building, day in and day out, keeping an eye on the people that wield power and talking to as many people as possible to make sure we get it right.

The bottom line: We need more journalists covering the statehouse. 54 isn’t enough.


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