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Newsonomics: In Memphis’ unexpected news war, The Daily Memphian’s model demands attention
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Feb. 10, 2020, 2:51 p.m.
LINK: www.concordmonitor.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Sarah Scire   |   February 10, 2020

Every four years, all eyes turn toward New Hampshire as the first presidential primary gets underway. Even the Granite State’s media scene is getting a closer look from national publications.

This weekend, the Los Angeles Times profiled WMUR, a station with an influential role as the state’s only commercial television outlet and outsized ad dollars to match. The New York Times, meanwhile, considered New Hampshire Public Radio and their podcast “Stranglehold,” a popular (if locally-controversial) examination of the state’s grasp on the nation’s first primary.

But the outlook is less rosy at the Concord Monitor, whose scaled-down newsroom didn’t assign reporters to individual candidates as it had in past primaries. Instead, the Monitor told readers they’ve been forced to rely on the Associated Press for coverage of what’s happening in their own backyard.

For the first time, the Monitor’s editorial board didn’t issue endorsements, either. The “tremendous investment” of meeting face-to-face with individual candidates was too much for the paper’s editors. (The Democrats fielding a historically large primary field can’t have helped matters.)

This summer, facing the realities of a far smaller staff than in primaries past, we decided the tremendous investment in time needed by our editorial board to meet individually with all the candidates in both parties would be more wisely spent elsewhere. So we decided we would not endorse primary candidates in 2020.

The Manchester-based Union Leader, The Keene Sentinel, the Conway Daily Sun, and the Seacoast Media Group (which publishes the Portsmouth Herald, among other papers) all issued endorsements. (Three of them backed Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, who has an affection for local newspapers, and the Daily Sun lauded their neighbor, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders.)

The Monitor was for years known as a standout among smaller American newspapers. It won a Pulitzer in 2008; it’s not owned by a rapacious hedge fund like Alden Global Capital. In 1999, CJR readers voted it the best small newspaper in the United States. It still wins awards, but it’s also a local newspaper facing the headwinds every other local newspaper faces.

In addition to the AP reports, the Monitor also runs a weekly “On The Trail” roundup. The paper, which is based in the state’s capital, framed their primary-related cutbacks as refocusing on local issues that emerge from the statehouse and area school districts.

“We believe that’s where our readers need us to be,” the Monitor’s editor Steve Leone wrote.

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