What's wrong with this picture with strong post-election elements? Well, there were notable absentees, Shapiro observed. Not a single South Carolina newspaper, wire service, TV or radio reporter showed up.
"What we are witnessing in this election cycle," he wrote, " is the slow death of traditional statewide campaign journalism. I noticed the same pattern (and the same nearly reporter-free campaign trail) in Kentucky last month as I covered libertarian Rand Paul's decisive defeat of the state Republican establishment in the GOP Senate primary. Aside from an occasional AP reporter, virtually the only print journalists whom I encountered a campaign events were my national press-pack colleagues from the NewYork Times, the Washington Post, Politico and the Atlantic Monthly."
The reason for the disappearing act? Shapiro reports the sad numbers in staff size:
"Newspapers like the Louisiville Courier-Journal and The State, South Carolina's largest paper, have dramatically de-emphasized in-depth candidate coverage because they are too short-handed to spare reporters. A survey by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) found that newsroom staffs across the country have declined by 25 percent since 2001."
I would add that in some newsrooms, it's a lot worse than that
The newspaper-bashers, including politicians whose oxen were being gored, would find nothing troubling about a digest version of a newspaper - or nothing at all - arriving at their doorstep every day.
But the cutback in political coverage is creating a serious vacuum on the home front in accountability for local and state politicians. Neither the New York Times nor office-bound Rush Limbaugh covers your suburbs. In these spots, the pols have a free hand in most instances short of mayhem. This is not to suggest that all small- town officials are on the take. Not at all. But even in non-criminal matters, attention by the local newspaper can keep everyone on the alert that there may be a more effective way of governing than what you might find in self-congratulatory press releases.
Unfortunately, the decline is beyond the point of no return. In another decade or so - maybe sooner - a lively aggressive local media will be part of the folklore like Hildy Johnson and The Front Page.