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The newspaper industry’s abandonment of Washington D.C. coverage — as evidenced by The San Diego Union-Tribune’s impending closure of its bureau — got some more ink today.

John McQuaid, a former D.C. correspondent for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, paints a grim picture in an American Prospect article:

Papers in San Francisco, San Diego, Des Moines, Pittsburgh, Hartford, Toledo, Houston, Salt Lake City, Montana, Wyoming, and Maine have all cut back or eliminated Washington coverage in the past two years. …

Just from the standpoint of brute journalistic force, multiple layoffs mean fewer knowledgeable eyes on the day-to-day business of Congress and the federal government, so more political and bureaucratic shenanigans will go unnoticed — a win for opacity.

McQuaid does find some reasons for hope amid the aggressive efforts of alternative media that mostly have an “ideological kick of some kind” — The Washington Independent, The Media Consortium (a group of progressive publications), Mother Jones, and the Talking Points Memo site. He’s also impressed with Politico. But …

What these lack, of course, is the tight local focus of the traditional Washington bureau, and its feedback link between community, Congress, and the federal bureaucracy.

— RANDY DOTINGA

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