Adding in these details wouldn’t have made the blog post a deep investigative dive, and wouldn’t have eliminated the need for long-term pieces (which the Post does take on). But it would have been a small step toward improving readers’ understanding of the routine operation of money in politics—and small steps, taken often enough, can carry you a long way.

There are also self-interested reasons for local newspapers (and TV stations) to shift their coverage in this direction. The Internet has made it possible for niche publications like Politico to reach a national audience, and for data-miners and watchdogs to reach readers directly. In the competition for a deeply-engaged political audience, few regional outlets can match the obsessive focus of those specialty sources.

What even strapped regional publications might do as a matter of course, though, is take advantage of the campaign finance work the specialty sites have already done, and distill the bits of information that are most pertinent to their readers—while also showing readers how they can seek out the data themselves. That approach would mark a bid for relevance among politics junkies, while also helping to open doors for more casual readers.

So what, exactly, might that look like? I’ll offer some specific suggestions in my next post.

Mary Winter has worked for seven newspapers, most recently the Denver Post, and was assistant managing editor at She spent the bulk of her career at the Rocky Mountain News, first in features and later managing the legislative and state government teams. In 2008, she oversaw delegate coverage at the Democratic National Convention for the paper. She wrote a weekly column for the News for 10 years.