Walter Jones is the political reporter for the Morris News Service, providing political content since 1998 for a consortium of newspapers including the Athens Banner-Herald, the Savannah Morning News, the Georgia Times Union and the Augusta Chronicle. I’ve covered news events with him in locations as diverse as the Varsity, the North Atlanta Trade Center, the Commerce Club and of course the state house, where he could be found in the House or Senate press gallery, or talking to our friends in the hall on the third floor balcony. Walter is also on the Board of Directors of the Atlanta Press Club.
Today is the last day for Morris News. The newspaper’s parent has decided to close its capitol bureaus in Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and Texas, in addition to its NASCAR bureau. Instead of covering politics, Walter will be writing for the Chronicle. In that sense, he’s lucky, since the other displaced reporters are still looking for employment.
The layoffs at Morris News are part of a larger trend. A 2014 Pew Research study reports that the number of newspaper reporters assigned to work at state capitols declined by 35% between 2003 and 2014, and that 71% of U.S. newspapers don’t have a statehouse reporter. Much of the coverage of state government now comes from non-traditional outlets such as GeorgiaPol.com. In fact, 16% of the coverage comes from non traditional outlets, just one percentage point less than TV. The reasons for the increasing ranks of unemployed journalists are many, including the loss of newspaper classified ad revenue, the move to consume news online instead of print, and the public’s short attention span, with more people interested in the latest about Miley, Taylor or Jennifer than they are in rural healthcare, education funding or criminal justice reform.
But I digress.
Walter’s work has formed the basis for many of our posts, both here and at the old place, and we thank him for that. But most of all, we want to send best wishes to an excellent journalist as he moves on to the next step in his career. And we hope he will be able to find some time to stop by the Gold Dome next January and say hello.