For every 500,000 residents in Vermont, there are 10 full-time reporters covering the state's statehouse -- the best margin of people-to-reporters of any state in the country, according to a newly released study from the Pew Research Center.
Other small population states -- Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota etc. -- have somewhere between three and five full-time reporters covering their respective statehouses per every 500,000 residents. More worrisome is that many of the country's biggest population states have a minuscule number of people covering what their politicians are doing. In California, there is .6 of a reporter covering the goings-on in Sacramento for every 500,000 people in the state. In Florida, it's .9 of a statehouse reporter per every 500,000 people.
Here's the full map from Pew.
The problem here is obvious. Governors and state legislatures in big population states tend to be the incubators of policy -- both good and bad -- that eventually turns into major fights at the national level. Having so few reporting resources -- relatively speaking -- in a state as big and important as California makes covering the big political and policy fights there virtually impossible.
And that speaks to one of the most under-reported but important stories in the constriction of journalism over the past decade. Yes, most national news sites have had to slim down but they remain major behemoths in terms of staff. Regional and local news organizations have been hit far harder, meaning that the at-the-roots level coverage of politicians and policies is significantly restricted if not nonexistent. (It's hard to imagine most local newspapers these days being able to finance the investigative work that went into the San Diego Union Tribune exposing then Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's corruption, for example.)
According to Pew, the number of reporters covering statehouses across the country has declined by 35 percent since just 2003. For fans of holding politicians accountable, that's a very depressing stat.
So, support your local political reporters! Check out our Fix list of the best state-based political reporters in the country. Then follow them all on Twitter.