Star-Ledger says N.J. Senators, Congressmen don’t produce enough news for two reporters

In an interview with the American Journalism Review, Star-Ledger editor Jim Willse says he’s not sure he’ll replace Washington,D.C.-based reporters Scott Orr and Robert Cohen, who both took buyouts.

“Frankly, the delegation doesn’t produce enough news to keep two reporters busy,” Willse told AJR editor Jennifer Dorroh about the fifteen New Jerseyans who serve in Congress.

Here’s the New Jersey section in the AJR story:

Both of the Washington reporters for Newark’s Star-Ledger, another Newhouse property, accepted buyouts as part of major cutbacks at the paper. At AJR’s deadline, it was unclear whether they would be replaced, but it seemed unlikely. “Until we’re sure who still works here, we’re not really in a great position to decide any of the beats, including Washington,” says Editor Jim Willse.

He says not much will be lost in terms of covering specific members of Congress, since the paper decided several years ago to forego comprehensive reporting on the delegation in favor of beat coverage. Scott Orr covered technology and Robert Cohen tracked the Food and Drug Administration and the pharmaceutical industry. Both beats are important to New Jersey. “Frankly, the delegation doesn’t produce enough news to keep two reporters busy,” Willse says. “In our case, I would say that less than 20 percent of their work time was devoted to a kind of classic regional reporting. But pharmaceuticals is a big local industry, so in a sense it’s regional reporting.”

Willse says he wasn’t eager to reduce coverage of Washington, where the Star-Ledger has had two reporters throughout his 13-year tenure at the paper. “Anytime you have a reporter who produces a lot of good stories and then leaves, you lose all of those stories. Both of them were extremely productive, and we’re going confront that in a number of areas, not just Washington. We’re going to have to find out how to compensate for that loss.”

Star-Ledger says N.J. Senators, Congressmen don’t produce enough news for two reporters