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Highlighting the Importance of State Government News Coverage

The University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communication has a new prize meant to highlight the best work of journalists covering state and local politics.

Uvalde school shooting memorial
A memorial to those slain in the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting. News outlets covering the event have won multiple prizes.
Lola Gomez/TNS
In Brief:
  • Statehouse coverage has been declining for years, with fewer full-time reporters on the beat.

  • In response to shrinking journalism resources, the University of Florida's Collier Prize seeks to support journalists still covering state and local government.

  • The university hopes its prize will inspire more of a focus on this type of work.

  • Hear the companion podcast to this article featuring a discussion with journalism educator Hub Brown on the future of news coverage of state government.

    Coverage of state governments, like so much of journalism, has declined in recent years. A study released last year by the Pew Research Center found that the number of statehouse reporters has increased over the past decade, thanks to the rise of nonprofit newsrooms, but the number of full-time reporters has continued to fall.

    The University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communication is seeking to highlight the importance of state-level coverage, sponsoring the Collier Prize for State Government Accountability. At $25,000, it’s one of the richest journalism prizes in the nation.

    This year’s prize went to a collaboration between the Texas Tribune, ProPublica and FRONTLINE for a series of articles and a documentary about the Uvalde school shooting. (The same package was recognized as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize on Monday.)

    Hub Brown, the college’s dean, sat down with Governing to discuss the current state of state government coverage and what good coverage looks like.

    This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

    Governing: What do you see as the current state of state government coverage?

    Hub Brown: I think state government coverage is an endangered species of journalism right now, and the reason is the financial rearrangement or dismantlement of news organizations. The resources are just not there, and so we see papers closing statehouse bureaus and broadcast outlets reducing coverage.

    What we need is a voice in state government [journalism] that operates on behalf of citizens, on behalf of the people who need information to make rational decisions about how they are to be governed.

    Governing: The environment around journalism has changed over the years. How does the Collier Prize help support journalists and newsrooms working on state government coverage?

    Brown: The environment is more polarized now, and on all kinds of levels it just seems full of more palpable anger now than it’s been in a long time. As far as the Collier Prize is concerned, the idea is to show people the benefit of good, strong accountability journalism that gives people information about things going on behind closed doors or that they didn’t realize that they needed to have a say in.

    Governing: What do you think the future will bring?

    Brown: Well, I hope that we are having a national conversation around the kinds of work that we’re highlighting in the Collier Prize. I hope that more of the stories that we see are shared around the country so that people can see the kinds of work that’s being done, the impact that it has, the importance of some of these kinds of issues, and the effect that highlighting those stories can have. What we want is more focus on great journalism and therefore more focus on the accountability that journalism brings.
    Zina Hutton is a staff writer for Governing. She has been a freelance culture writer, researcher and copywriter since 2015. In 2021, she started writing for Teen Vogue. Now, at Governing, Zina focuses on state and local finance, workforce, education and management and administration news.
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