It is worth remembering that there was a time not too long ago when most large newspapers and news services got their stories about the federal government directly from their own Washington, D.C., bureaus. Some had bureaus in New York, London and elsewhere. But the era of the foreign correspondent began to end years ago. The era of the national corespondent is ending now.
The Washington Post announced Tuesday that it would shutter its last three bureaus outside its home market; New York, Chicago and Los Angeles will no longer be beats for Post writers.
Newspapers have been cutting staff aggressively for two years as the industry's circulation and ad revenues have gone into a slump which many experts believe is permanent. The Post's action goes beyond that. It says that one of the largest newspapers in America is planning to become local and will rely on firms like the AP to provide it with content from cities outside Washington.
The Post sugar coated the move by saying that it would "cover Washington as a place to live and as a place that has impact on the nation and the world." It already does that, so the statement is merely a reminder of the obvious.
A fundamental part of the news-gathering process is dying with The Post's move. Editors can rely less and less on their own staffs to cover the major stories of the day. Using the AP means using the same content that every other paper in the country has. There is no differentiation in that.
The sad part about the closings of the three bureaus and similar actions at other papers is that it brings up the issue of whether people have much interest beyond what happens in their home towns. Or are they simply content to get their broader view of what goes on in the great world outside by watching cable news?
Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.