Though there is work he wishes his team were doing, Halper is quick to defend the work they have done. “It bugs me a little bit—even as I complain that we need more resources—that there’s sometimes this impression that we’ve just given up. If you look at the quality of the work we’ve done and the changes we’ve managed to affect, even in the last few years, with dwindling resources, it’s been pretty impressive.”

Still, you can’t deny the math: as good as some of the work coming out of Sacramento is, there are fewer people, and papers, producing it. From her new home in Virginia and her new desk in the Post’s downtown D.C. office, Kimberly Kindy has kept an eye on stories coming out of her former haunt. She’s impressed with what the Times is managing to do with such threadbare resources, and is happy to see California Watch settling in at the capitol. “Just them knowing that somebody might catch them helps. And certainly California Watch adds that.”

But Kindy worries that without an experienced and robust press corps beyond that handful of publications, it’s not just livelihoods, bureaus, and profits that are being lost—it’s democracy itself. “Not having people there watching the statehouse, covering it, exposing it, explaining it, means there are no eyes on issues and policies and practices that are going to have a national impact,” she says. “It’s not just California that’s harmed.”

*[Update: this paragraph previously stated that the Times had the largest bureau in Sacramento. In fact, the Sacramento Bee has a larger bureau, with ten people assigned to the capitol. The error has since been corrected.]

Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.