RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — In a sad commentary on the state of TV journalism in the Triangle these days, the one reporter consistently assigned to cover technology has been reassigned.

As I tuned in WRAL TV in Raleigh the other night, I saw Tom Lawrence doing a report “live” from a local reservoir.

OK, so was Tom going to do a piece about how technology can help us save water?

No. It was a report — one of many the local media have done — on the latest decline in the levels at Falls Lake.

You see, Tom Lawrence doesn’t cover technology anymore.

He’s been “reassigned”, as they say in the journalism business. He’s now working general assignment, thus the drought story. Local Tech Wire is told that new management wants to focus on more “meaty” issues — like crime, scary weather and drought.

On the beat for nearly a decade

Back since a company called Interpath was launched in 1993, Lawrence covered technology – including that story for WRAL. Both companies were owned by Capitol Broadcasting, but Lawrence played it straight. What was the new company? What’s this Internet thing? Who will use it?

Ever since, he’s been the dean of technology reporters. NCEITA, in fact, presented him with a nice plaque last fall in recognition of his efforts to provide, as Fox would say, fair and balanced coverage of the companies, people, products and issues confronting the high-tech sector. While many other reporters have come and gone, Lawrence was a consistent source of reporting — both the good and bad news.

Now that the bloom has fallen off high-tech, TV focuses largely on one issue: Layoffs. (The TV trucks lined up at Cisco to cover layoffs was the classic overkill.)

Of course, other media have fallen victim to this trend as well. A News & Observer reporter told me recently how obsessed the paper was with any talk about layoffs at IBM. Local Tech Wire, too, covers layoffs, shutdowns and closing.

But for crying out loud, there is much more going on in high-tech than WorldCom!

A regional trend

Triangle TV and media aren’t alone, either. I hear lots of complains about the lack of technology reporting in Charlotte, the Triad and Atlanta as well.

Thank goodness The Business Journals in Raleigh, the Triad, Charlotte and Atlanta still cover all aspects of tech. So does Triangle Tech Journal. And The N&O maintains a strong emphasis on tech through its business staff. Its weekly “Connect” section is a worthy survivor when publications elsewhere have run faster from tech than Martha Stewart from congressional committees.

As for TV, NewsChannel 14 — the TimeWarner startup in Raleigh — has launched daily business news. WNCN and WRAL provide some coverage — but most is national, including stocks. A bright spot is the effort by Randall Gregg, the former editor of Triangle Tech Journal, who is providing video online at startup,.

Virtually gone from TV, however, is the kind of reporting by Lawrence and others (Melissa March at WNCN in Raleigh did “Tech Watch”, for example) that helped make TV news something more than blood, guts, rape, murder, mayhem and “scare us to death” Doppler radar.

Rick Smith is managing editor of Local Tech Wire.