Just when it seemed we’d have to start numbering super Tuesdays like super bowls, the Republican primary is all but over and, although Bernie Sanders will continue his campaign, the Democrats’ delegate math is against him.
I’m still mulling what the outcome of the GOP race says about the state of political journalism and wondering if the general election will go much beyond gender politics. But it seems like a good time to inventory my own coverage of the 2016 primary, which began last April when Jeb Bush brought a couple of key lime pies to Concord:
This was my fourth primary as a journalist and my first since leaving a full-time newsroom gig. That meant I experienced 2016 partly as a freelancer and partly through the eyes of my journalism students. (About those students: I’m utterly biased, but didn’t they do some fantastic work when the Democratic debate came to UNH in February?)
The journalism landscape changed a lot between 2012 and 2016. I bumped into reporters from the New York Times and CNN, but there were just as many journalists working for BuzzFeed, Vox, Vice and other digital startups.
Meerkat and Periscope made live video a huge part of campaign coverage, allowing the Union Leader to pretty much break the internet with this and giving one of my classes a chance to watch – and question – Hillary Clinton during a Concord Monitor editorial board interview last fall. Wifi was more ubiquitous, even in rural areas, making this primary feel more intense, more scripted, more public.
Instagram has been around since 2010, but this was the first national campaign where it was standard fare. For me, Instagram became an experiment in short-form storytelling, a way to sketch the voices and scenes that give the campaign trail its texture. Here’s one example from that Bush event last April:
Another favorite taken in Bedford the weekend before the primary:
And here’s one from my neighborhood polling station on voting day:
I wrote mostly for the Boston Globe, filing stories about candidate draft movements, political artifacts and campaign technology in 2008 versus 2016. I also met some wonderful new Americans preparing to vote in their very first primary and delved into the mysterious origins of the GOP. I also had bylines in Women’s e-News and the Concord Monitor. And, on primary day, I talked about the state of the political news media on New Hampshire Public Radio.
My best 2016 memory, though, is playing political tourist with my cousin Drew, a government major at UT-Austin. He flew into Manchester the weekend before the primary, and we spent the next few days crisscrossing the state in search of would-be presidents. We saw Bush and Rubio at elementary schools in Concord and Bedford, met Kasich at the Puritan Backroom and watched Cruz address a packed town hall in Peterborough.
In downtown Manchester, we saw campaign finance reformers, wandering journalists and piles of Trump signs ready for a rally and this guy: