We all know the old saw that sunlight is the best disinfectant. Now it turns out that it's also the best stick - new research from the US appears to show that "congressmen who are less covered by the
local press work less for their constituencies: they are less likely to
stand witness before congressional hearings, to serve on
constituency-oriented committees (perhaps), and to vote against the
party line. Finally, this congressional behaviour affects policy.
Federal spending is lower in areas where there is less press coverage
of the local members of congress."
That's in the US. In the UK, we have They Work For You, an independent site that tracks the activities of MPs. Anecdotally at least, one impact of the site is to increase the number of spurious questions asked in the Commons by MPs keen for the site to record that they've been doing something. Still. Interesting to wonder whether the spending / coverage relationship is zero sum (under-reported areas lose their share of the budget to areas with a more active press) or whether the overall Federal budget is actually higher because of vigorous local campaigning in some areas. If the latter, the idea of a libertarian press begins to look amusingly counter-productive.