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Less competition among papers in Trenton
Written by Administrator   
Saturday, 21 February 2009 08:25

Once fierce competitors for state government news,The Star-Ledger and The Record announced plans Friday to combine their Trenton bureaus.

While the move creates the largest Statehouse bureau in the nation, it further reduces the competition on Press Row that once drove coverage of state government news.

The Ledger and The Trenton Times, both owned by the Newhouse family, had previously combined their Statehouse bureaus. TheNew York Times recently shut its three-person bureau. Gannett, which owns the Asbury Park Press, The Courier Post, The Home News Tribune and The Courier News, reduced its Statehouse bureau to two from six.

The Statehouse press corps at a news conference in Trenton
For the Ledger, the decision to combine its Statehouse bureau with its cross-state rival comes less than two months after a volulntary buyout that eliminated 151 reporters and editors from its newsroom. Prior to the buyout, the paper had 330 newsroom employees.

Veteran Statehouse corespondents Dunstan McNichol, Robert Schwanenberg, Tom Hester, Joseph Donohue, Rick Hepp and deputy bureau chief Matt Reilly accepted the buyout, leaving the bureau with Claire Heininger, Josh Margolin, Susan Livio and bureau chief Tom Martello. Heininger, who had previously been an intern, replaced veteran Deborah Howlett, who had left earlier last year to join the staff of Gov. Jon Corzine.

The editors of both papers said the merger made sense given their shrinking resources.

"At a time when newspapers have had to cut back news staffs, this cooperation allows us to pool resources and better serve all our readers," said Ledger editor Jim Willse in a prepared statement.

The decision to combine bureaus must have come fairly suddenly because Willse had recently boasted to the Newspaper Association of America's Mary Lynn F. Jones that he planned to "fully restock" the Ledger's Statehouse bureau.

Record editor Frank Scandale said combining bureaus was a "a common-sense response to the changing media landscape."

Martello, an experienced Trenton wag who has worked the Statehouse beat for the Associated Press and The Trenton Times as well as the Ledger for more than two decades, will remain as the chief of the combined bureau, while Record bureau chief John McAlpin will assume the role of deputy.

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