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The political and media world was riveted by the Comey affair and his testimony last week. But coverage looks different beyond the reach of the nation's largest newspapers.

United States Project

Local news's scattershot approach to covering the Russia allegations

Today’s front pages at The Washington Post, The New York Times, and USA Today feature coverage of the ongoing congressional inquiry into ties between the Trump Administration and Russia. Two of the three papers led with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ scheduled testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, while the third opened with a claim made by a Trump acquaintance that the president was “considering, perhaps, terminating the special counsel”—former FBI director Robert Mueller.
 
Beyond the reach of the nation’s largest newspapers, coverage looks different. Local papers such as The Roanoke Times and the News & Observer made room on their front pages today for wire reports on Sessions’ testimony. A number of local papers have relied on their editorial boards to shape the perspectives of their readers, albeit to different degrees. Cleveland’s Plain Dealer has convened several editorial board roundtables, and the Denver Post has frequently editorialized on the firing of FBI director James Comey and the Russia inquiry. Other, smaller local papers—The Athens News, The Emporia Gazette—have largely avoided a topic that has dominated headlines at national papers.
 
“I normally would have talked about it in a column,” the publisher of The Athens News tells CJR, “but this is such a fast-developing story that as soon as I come up with a column idea pertaining to Russia or Comey, somebody else—usually lots of somebodies—uses the same arguments in the national media. So it’s worn out by the time our print edition would come out.”
 
The political and media world was riveted by the Comey affair and his testimony last week. Press interest at the local level, by comparison, has been scattershot. CJR recently interviewed editors from two-dozen papers around the country to better understand how—or whether—local news covered Comey and the Russia inquiry. Read the full report from CJR’s United States Project team here.
 
Be sure to read these new stories from CJR and correspondents to the United States Project:

  • "Extremism is not a good way to narrate this story." Sarah Blesener, a photographer who captured youth patriotism in Russia, turns her lens to the US.
     
  • The "billionaire-owner business model" in Colorado: Clarity Media's push to dominate state politics coverage may also be a move to put pressure on the state's largest newspaper.
     
  • "Entrepreneurs see opportunities rather than threats." Philadelphia's Lenfest Institute for Journalism puts up $1 million for grants to bolster collaboration, local news revenue streams, and efforts to reach underserved communities.
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Reach us at editors@cjr.org.
 
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