Pluribus News Will Cover Biggest Trends at State Capitols

From a New York Times story by Katie Robertson headlined “News on Statehouses, With a Twist: Covering All 50 at Once”:

As he has observed lawmaking across the country, says Reid Wilson, a longtime Beltway journalist, he has sensed a journalistic opportunity: covering the biggest trends at statehouses across the country.

“What happens in Sacramento or Albany or Austin today happens in 25 states next year and then federally after that,” Mr. Wilson said.

This week, the brainchild of his idea, Pluribus News, started publishing — the latest news start-up directing a gaze toward state capitols.

As local newspapers have shuttered or cut back their staffing, coverage of state governments has declined. A Pew Research Center study in April found that the number of reporters covering statehouses full time had dropped in the past eight years to 850 from 904, though there are more reporters covering the beat part time.

A slew of for-profit digital outlets and nonprofit media organizations have popped up or expanded in recent years to help fill the void. States Newsroom, a network of nonprofit news outlets, now has a presence in 29 states, with plans to expand to South Dakota, Kentucky and Alabama. Spotlight PA, a partnership of news organizations, covers state politics in Pennsylvania. CalMatters, another nonprofit, focuses on California politics and policy.

Some national outlets, like Politico and Bloomberg, have also introduced state-specific offerings to try to address the dearth of coverage. Axios has started Axios Local newsletters in cities across the country, with content sometimes focusing on statehouses. An Axios spokeswoman, Yolanda Brignoni, said the company would end the year with newsletters in 30 cities and planned to be in 50 by the end of 2023.

Mr. Wilson said he hoped his new site would stand out not by focusing on any one state capitol but by covering broader policy currents coursing from one state to another. Pluribus News is starting with a newsroom of six employees, four of them reporters who will cover economic, infrastructure, health care, and energy and environmental policy across all 50 states. Mr. Wilson, who serves as the editor in chief, said he envisioned expanding into education and housing coverage.

The business will rely on selling advertisements that will run with its free daily newsletter and digital subscriptions; the company also plans to introduce a paywall in January, Mr. Wilson said. And he expects to tap into lobbying spending, which has soared in states.

“It’s clear to me that the business interests that advertise around D.C.-based publications are increasingly turning to the states because they see the opportunity to influence policy there before it comes here to D.C.,” he said.

Mr. Wilson, 39, started his career at National Journal’s The Hotline, a politics tipsheet, as an assistant to Chuck Todd, now the host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and then rose to become its editor in chief. He also worked at The Washington Post and The Hill.

The Pluribus News team includes Kyle Trygstad, formerly a politics editor at Bloomberg Government, as the site’s managing editor. Reporters have come from CQ Roll Call, The Nevada Independent, Northwest News Network and Stateline. Mr. Wilson also hired a publisher and chief operating office from The Hill.

Mr. Wilson said his reporters would look for trends and policy ideas that could quickly spread elsewhere. One is the bill recently passed in California to protect children online, which he expects will spread to multiple states next year. Mr. Wilson also gave the example of a provision in Indiana’s abortion ban, which allows a state attorney general to prosecute people under the law if a local district attorney declines to.

“You can totally tell that that’s going to be in every Republican bill that shows up next year,” he said.

Katie Robertson is a media reporter. She previously worked as an editor and reporter at Bloomberg and News Corporation Australia.


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