Keene Sentinel gives local perspective on candidates

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(Host) It’s often said that all politics is local. At New Hampshire’s Keene Sentinel, that’s an adage taken very seriously.

VPR’s Susan Keese was at the Sentinel last night and files this report.

(Keese) Will Coghlan of the Keene Sentinel couldn’t have been happier with what he saw at the polls on Tuesday. The rookie reporter’s day started in Westmoreland, a small town west of Keene. The bundled-up voters at the steepled town hall made a picture-perfect New Hampshire scene. The conversations Coghlin heard confirmed his faith in the democratic process.

(Coghlan) “The voters that I talked to were talking about the issues. They seemed to have a real grasp of what candidates stood for, what their stand on the issues was.”

(Keese) The comments Coghlan’s gathered were part of a story that was in readers’ hands by midday. The Keene Sentinel is an afternoon paper. Like papers around the country that will be covering the Democratic winnowing out process, it focuses on the local story, rather than predictions or polls.

(Thomas Kearney) “The idea is to give people the info they need to decide which candidate is better for them, as opposed to who’s ahead.”

(Keese) Thomas Kearney is the Sentinel’s executive editor. Kearney says his paper spends very little time on what he calls the “horse race.” The paper publishes charts, comparing the candidates’ positions on the issues.

(Kearney) “We cover what voters say, we cover what voters are thinking, we cover what makes voters change their mind. We cover what galvanizes volunteers day after day in the wintry winds, campaigning for somebody.”

(Keese) The paper took a stand: it endorsed Howard Dean, after several days of debate. Coincidentally or not Dean had his best showing in the region the paper serves. Kearney says it’s hard to say how much influence the paper has over voter outcomes.

(Kearney) “Some people respect what we have to say and some people use our position as a litmus test for how they should not feel.”

(Keese) By the time the Sentinel presses roll on Wednesday, the national spotlight will be moving on. As the race continues, local media all over the country will be looking for information to help their voters make a decision.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese in Keene, New Hampshire.

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