Kaplan: “We’re the men and women who cover politics in Washington … and we’re disappearing fast.”

Former Portland Press-Herald reporter Jonathan Kaplan pens a piece in today’s Washington Post Outlook section about the closings of various D.C. bureaus:

    The biggest losers in these cutbacks, of course, are the citizens of Maine and the other states where newspapers have closed their Washington bureaus. My main gripe is that the loss of regional reporters just gives one more advantage to incumbents seeking reelection. Even in 2006, a year in which a Democratic tide swept Republicans out of office, 94 percent of incumbents in the House were reelected, as were 79 percent of those in the Senate, according to OpenSecrets.org, a nonpartisan Web site that keeps track of election spending and data.

    The downsizing in mainstream newspapers does not, of course, spell disaster for the Constitution. We reporters, as much as we might want to think otherwise, are not the last line of defense against the misuse of government power in the republic. These days, people get their news from plenty of other sources, including television, radio and the Internet. So the problem isn’t that all those press releases that lawmakers send out will go unchallenged, although they might go unread in standard newsprint.

    But readers will miss some nuance simply because there’s nobody in the Capitol. They won’t know how Sen. Olympia Snowe’s eyes light up when she recalls being selected as an intern for the state’s Democratic governor in the summer of 1967, even though she considered herself a Republican. They’ll probably never learn that, at a press conference in May, just minutes before a vote on a massive farm bill, Collins praised a provision in the measure to close the so-called Enron loophole. She then headed straight to the Senate floor and voted against the bill.

Read the full thing here.