“If the power of journalism is measured by its ability to spark anxiety in government officials, it’s hard to imagine a more relaxing time to hold public office,” wrote Maura J. Casey in a December 31st “Editor’s Notebook” for the New York Times, observing the “sour” economy’s “choking” effect on “local newsgathering,” the towns and cities of New Jersey and Connecticut, in particular. (Readers get numbers and details for staff cuts at a host of publications but, of the Times itself, only that its “regional coverage has been reduced, too.”)

On Saturday, the LA Times’s James Rainey described the situation where he sits:

A slow plague has reduced the corps of journalists who cover [L.A.] county government to four. That’s just four reporters (and one of them has other responsibilities) who focus a critical eye on the biggest local government in America — a $22-billion behemoth that provides policing, healthcare, welfare and more to a county of nearly 10 million people.


As concern about the economic crisis spreads, everyone should be alarmed that the ranks of the watchdogs assessing the fallout for government have been cut to shreds…

And don’t think opportunists haven’t sensed an opening…

Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.