Who we are and how we got started
Welcome to Capitolbeat, the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, an organization for reporters covering state and local governments. We formed in late 1999, following a Denver conference of statehouse reporters sponsored by the Pew Center on the States and Stateline.org
Why it’s important
Big-money corporate lobbyists flooded the July 2000 meeting of the National Governors’ Association because they knew that power was flowing from Washington back to state capitals for several years, and it has reached critical mass. But while that’s been happening, budgets for coverage of state government have been on a starvation diet. A 1998 study published by the American Journalism Review found that “Coverage of state government is in steep decline … Bureaus are shrinking, reporters are younger and less experienced, stories get less space and poorer play…”
Reversing that decline and bolstering the skills and resources in state government reporting are Capitolbeat’s goals. Or, from our mission statement, “This Association exists to advance public understanding of state government and the issues before state government, and to educate and share information with its members and the public on best practices, tools and techniques in state government reporting.”
How we got started
It would be just like a bunch of statehouse reporters to make history in a former bordello, and that’s just where Capitolbeat got its start. Mattie’s House of Mirrors, now a respectable restaurant in the warehouse section of Denver, was the site of the first meeting to form a national association.
It happened during Power to the States, the first national conference for journalists who cover state government, which was held over three days in October 1999. More than 100 reporters, editors and broadcasters from 34 different states and the District of Columbia attended, along with a handful of academics and members of public policy institutes. The conference was sponsored by Stateline.org, The Colorado Springs Gazette, the Pew Center for Civic Journalism, Investigative Reporters and Editors, the National Conference of State Legislatures, The Associated Press Managing Editors and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The event itself – along with the secondary goal of creating a national organization for our profession – was largely in response to recently aired concerns over the state of statehouse reporting. Both scholarly studies and journalism publications were pointing to a decline in the resources and amount of coverage dedicated to state government. Statehouse journalists also sensed what they do carries less weight these days and that their jobs have become more difficult and less appreciated.
About 25 journalists interested in networking with others who cover state government to share techniques, along basic policy and political information, across state lines met to plant the seeds for a national organization. They selected the name Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors (later changed to Capitolbeat), approved a graphic logo and elected Genevieve Anton as founding president and asked her to appoint an interim board.
The concept was given a warm reception by the entire conference, which gave its approval for a board to commence making Capitolbeat a reality. By the time the board of directors met a month later in Chicago, more than 140 journalists had signed up to become members. The board spent a weekend hammering out a framework, a philosophy and ground rules. It also elected officers and decided what Capitolbeat should offer to its members in its first year.
Throughout 2008 and beyond, Capitolbeat will continue to gather members and momentum, seek financial sponsors, and develop valuable resources to improve the quality of reporting on state government.