The New Face of Washington's Press Corps

Feb 11, 2009

Read the headlines and it would be easy to conclude that as the new Obama administration takes power, facing an array of domestic and international crises, it will be monitored by a substantially depleted Washington press corps.

It isn't exactly so.

The corps of journalists covering Washington D.C. at the dawn of the Obama administration is not so much smaller as it is dramatically transformed. And that transformation will markedly alter what Americans know and not know about the new government, as well as who will know it and who will not.

A careful accounting of the numbers, plus detailed interviews with journalists, lawmakers, press association executives and government officials, reveals that what we once thought of as the mainstream news media serving a general public have indeed shrunk -- perhaps far more than many would imagine. A roll call of the numbers may shock.

But as the mainstream media have shrunk, a new sector of niche media has grown in its place, offering more specialized and detailed information than the general media to smaller, elite audiences, often built around narrowly targeted financial, lobbying and political interests. Some of these niche outlets are financed by an economic model of high-priced subscriptions, others by image advertising from big companies like defense contractors, oil companies and mobile phone alliances trying to influence policy makers.

Read the full report The New Face of Washington's Press Corps on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.

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