According to a new PewResearch Journalism Project report, the number of accredited Illinois Statehouse reporters has nearly halved in the last decade, down from 43 in 2003-2004 to just 22 this year.
The full-time statehouse press corps reduced numbers across all news platforms, the study shows, as newspapers, radio stations and TV stations have fewer reporters in the capital, ready to report on breaking news at any time.
In 2003, Copley News Service -- owner of Springfield's State Journal-Register and the Peoria Journal Star -- had five reporters in Springfield covering state government for the two papers. Its successor, GateHouse News Service, now has two who cover state government for all Illinois GateHouse papers including the Rockford Register-Star.
The decline for Illinois has been more extreme than the national average of 35 percent.
Having fewer reporters watching state government is not a good thing. From the Pew study:
"I think you're seeing fewer stories," said Gene Rose, the longtime former communications director for the National Conference of State Legislatures. "The public is not being kept aware of important policy decisions that are being made that will affect their daily lives."
In Springfield and elsewhere throughout the state, politicians are discussing raising Illinois' minimum wage to $8.25, which Gov. Pat Quinn (Democrat) has said he supports during his reelection campaign, while his challenger, Republican Bruce Rauner, has said he would not support raising Illinois' minimum wage but could get behind a plan to increase the national minimum wage, which President Barack Obama also supports. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said he would like to see the city's minimum wage go up to $13 an hour in the next four years. How many hours would a person in your city and around the state have to work, based on the current minimum wage, to make a "living wage?"