August 22, 2013
Some Basic Demographic Facts For Our Local Journalists

In this area, our local journalists give more coverage to the politics of that reactionary city, Seattle, than to all the rest of the area combined.  (Excluding, of course, the local free newspapers that you can find in almost every community.)

Judging by population, this concentration of coverage on Seattle is unwarranted.   We can get a rough idea of just how unwarranted by looking at the populations of four counties in the Seattle metropolitan area, King (which includes Seattle), Kitsap, Pierce, and Snohomish.  (I chose those four because all are within range of Seattle TV and radio stations, and all have a significant proportion of households that read our local monopoly newspaper, the Seattle Times.)

The populations of the four counties are, respectively, about 2,007,000, 255,000, 812,000, and 733,000.  (I'm using numbers from the Census QuickFacts site, for convenience.)  Seattle's population is about 635,000.

So Seattle has about one-sixth of the population in this four-county area.  (That proportion has been declining for decades.)  But it gets way more than one-sixth of the coverage.

(Some advertisers might be bothered by this Seattle-centric coverage, because the people living in those four counties, outside Seattle, have, on the average, higher per capita incomes than those living in Seattle.)

Of course people and money should not be the only determinants of coverage.   There are valid reasons for some of that concentration, the businesses located in Seattle, the concentration of government facilities there, the importance of Seattle as a transportation hub, and so on.  And let us concede that Seattle is more likely to provide us with entertaining political stories than most of the region.

But, even if you allow for those things, it is still true that our local journalists give too much coverage to Seattle, and too little to the rest of the region.

Why?  Habit, no doubt, but also because many of them are uncomfortable spending time in the towns and suburbs where most of us live.  A reluctance to talk to people with different values is, I think, a serious defect in a working journalist.  But those running our local news organizations don't seem to agree with me on that point.

Cross posted at Jim Miller on Politics.

Posted by Jim Miller at August 22, 2013 10:32 AM | Email This