The New Mexico Independent, an online-only news organization, has a series of posts tracking lobbyist spending in the state capital, with short entries that include links to pdfs of individual filings. The biggest expenditure is a $9,040 cocktail dinner and breakfast combo for legislators thrown by a healthcare lobbyist. That pdf link is an example of what new media can offer. As local papers close and downsize, some of the first reporting to go is coverage of state houses (though the town’s old media outlet did match the first of these posts with their own, more detailed story, which said lobbyists seem to be spending less this year), so work like this is crucial to maintaining some level of transparency. And this reporting isn’t free, even though the content is.

The Independent, which is part of the larger non-profit Independent American News Network, usually runs on two full-time and three-part time staffers. But they’ve filled out to five full timers for New Mexico’s 30 day legislative session, including the temporary addition of the reporter who wrote these lobbying posts. The Independent’s editor, Gwyneth Doland, said they normally pay their part-time reporters $1,500 per month, but are paying this reporter more for his full-time work. And covering lobbyist spending is only part of what he does, Doland said.

“I could EASILY hire a part-time writer to have money in state politics be his only beat,” she wrote in an email, if only she had the money.

Money is indeed the issue, and no one seems to have the answers. Though John Nichols and Robert McChesney took a crack in this Nation article, and in their new book, The Life and Death of American Journalism, where they argue for federal subsidies. In the meantime, we’ll have to rely on a hodge-podge of dying newspapers and fledgling new media start-ups to do what they can.