Patriot-News/PennLive cuts back on local government coverage

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Mar 22, 2016 10:03 AM

(Harrisburg) -- The region's largest media company is shrinking.

Cate Barron, the editor of PennLive and the Patriot-News, says seven to eight freelancers would go to meetings every week in boroughs and townships.

But now, she says two are used.

The move comes after the company laid off seven full-time employees in December.

Barron says she had to stop sending freelancers to municipal meetings because of unexpected expenses at the company's printing plant.

"We do not go to as many meetings actually now as we did before, but I will say we still have some municipal reporters who that's their entire responsibility, is to find out what's going on in the townships and boroughs and cities in our area," says Barron.

Barron says editors still collect meeting agendas from all the municipalities in the region to keep a watch on what's going on.

"There always are, and you know what, they would fall through the cracks in the old days as well, we couldn't be everywhere,:" she adds.

"But so far knock on wood, I think we've done a pretty good job and we want to keep it that way."

But University of North Carolina professor Penny Abernathy, an expert on community journalism, is skeptical.

"The question you always need to ask if you're not going to cover the meetings, how are you going to stay informed about what's going on?"

Barron counters that Pennlive reporters stay in touch with communities through social media, and says the media company will continue to commit to in-depth projects.

Says Abernathy: "A reporter is supposed to give you the context and if needed, the analysis that looks back historically or looks ahead to say why this issue's important."

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