In his seminal future-of-newspapers essay in The New Republic, “Goodbye to the Age of Newspapers (Hello to a New Era of Corruption),” Princeton professor Paul Starr discussed the watchdog function of the political press. While that function is clearly vital when it comes to the federal government, Starr noted, “the watchdog role of the regional press is even more critical at the state level, where no one else is likely to step in when newspapers cut back.”
Happily, though, the black hole Starr foresaw might not materialize. Time magazine points out two start-up ventures in Statehouse coverage—Hartford’s Connecticut News Junkie and Austin’s Texas Watchdog—as rays of light in an otherwise murky atmosphere. They’re small operations, and funding is a particular challenge. (“It’s not as easy to interest advertisers in statehouse-centric sites as it is to get ads for local restaurants, arts and travel stories,” Time notes, citing the constriction of Politicker as evidence.) Still, capitol coverage is vital—and start-ups may be the best way to ensure that it continues despite newspapers’ plight. “I’m going to do what I can to keep this alive,” Texas Watchdog founder Trent Seibert tells Time. Plus, he adds, “I’m having fun in journalism for the first time in a long time.”Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.