It's time to bid farewell to yet another national reporter covering Chicago and the Midwest. This week it's P.J. Huffstutter, the Chicago Bureau Chief for the L.A. Times (this according to Gorkana). She's now a roving national reporter covering "how the economy is impacting people across the country." While this might make financial sense for the Tribune Company, which owns both the Times and the Chicago Tribune, it's a clear loss for Chicagoans and the country as a whole.
And unfortunately this decision is just the latest in a long string of reductions to Chicago and Midwest bureaus during the past few years. Last summer, CNN slashed its Chicago staff, eliminated the Midwest bureau chief position, and decided its employees here should be reporting to the Western region chief in Los Angeles (even though CNN's Atlanta headquarters is closer).
Now, I think the recent "Chicago is the greatest city in the world" stories are overdoing it a little -- maybe we don't need as many reporters here as in, say, the nation's capital. (And the closing of DC bureaus is a shame, too.) But it's no secret the Trib and Sun-Times don't have the resources to adequately cover the city, and upstarts like the Chi-Town Daily News (and this one) just aren't filling the gap yet. That the national press corps still believes Mayor Daley is a paragon of executive leadership is evidence enough that something is wrong. We need more national journalists here offering an outsider's perspective, and more resources for covering the the city.
Like Huffstutter, most of the national correspondents here must cover the entire Midwest -- somewhere around a dozen states, depending on how you count. That The New York Times effectively has two people -- Monica Davey for national and David Streitfeld for business -- responsible for this whole region is laughable. WSJ/Dow Jones is the only outlet that seems to take the area seriously, though they focus on financial coverage.
Most of the time, locals aren't getting the coverage we need, and the rest of America is receiving a limited, skewed perspective on the lives of 60 million-plus people in Chicago and other major cities like Detroit, Cleveland, and Minneapolis. The situation is fantastic for freelance journalists like me, who lap up the stories the nationals miss, but a travesty for citizens who actually want to understand their city and country.
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