Editorial: Capitol News Illinois and the duty to cover state government

  • Capitol News Illinois reporter Jerry Nowicki takes notes at a news conference in the Blue Room at the Capitol.

    Capitol News Illinois reporter Jerry Nowicki takes notes at a news conference in the Blue Room at the Capitol. Courtesy of Lee Milner/Illinois Times

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted3/10/2020 1:00 AM

At statehouses across the country, news bureaus are in distress.

As local news operations have struggled since the Great Recession to manage large-scale losses of traditional advertising, they've been forced to prioritize.


Given a choice between statehouse news and local news, most have chosen to focus on local coverage.

In Illinois and elsewhere, newspaper after newspaper has closed its statehouse bureau, meaning there's been less and less original reporting on what state government does, and does not, do.

That's a problem. Not just for newspapers, but more importantly, for the public and for good government, which relies on an informed electorate to function properly.

In Illinois, the Illinois Press Foundation has developed an innovative solution, one that has shown so much promise that it is serving as a model for newspaper associations in other states.

Supported by a grant from the Robert F. McCormick Foundation and donations from newspapers and journalists around the state. IPF created Capitol News Illinois a year ago to provide intense, objective coverage of state government in Springfield.

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As of Monday, its coverage has been published in 401 Illinois newspapers.

We're one of them.

And like most newspapers in Illinois, we're enthusiastic supporters and collaborators.

CNI doesn't just report for newspapers like the Daily Herald. It works with us to make its coverage as pointed and pertinent as possible.

There can be little doubt that Illinois' state government needs to be monitored.

It faces huge challenges, both in terms of its financials but also in terms of its direction. It's been troubled by costly and embarrassing scandals. It's now dominated by one political party. It's lobbied by powerful and important special interests. It serves a diverse population.

This is no knock on the participants in state government, no knock on either the workers or the politicians. They're mostly hard working and well intentioned.


But it's a fundamental in a democratic republic. Yes, the state government needs to be monitored.

Its work needs to be chronicled.

Its priorities and choices need to be held up to the light and, yes, to be fairly questioned.

Democracy, as The Washington Post likes to say, dies in darkness. That's just as true in Springfield as it is in Washington.

For more than a year, CNI has helped newspapers around Illinois keep an eye on state government. That means it's helped the public keep its eye on state government.

We owe the Illinois Press Foundation, and all who support its remarkable initiative, our thanks.

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