This past New Hampshire primary season, there was a new sound that seemed to rise above the din that was 24/7 Primary coverage. It was the sound of a new partnership between between New Hampshire Public Radio and the Concord Young Professionals Network. The sound itself was actually an insightful and inquisitive chorus of voices lead by that of Laura Knoy, host of The Exchange on NHPR, and members of CYPN.
The partnership between the two organizations was something new for both of them. It began to take shape in late August of 2015, when Michael Rathke, NHPR’s Program Director, approached Angie Lane, an NHPR Member Associate and CYPN Steering Committee member, regarding the possibility of the two organizations working together. Within a week, Michael and Angie had met with Concord Chamber President Tim Sink, CYPN Chair Elyssa Alfieri, and Events and CYPN Liaison Christina Baker. The group unanimously agreed that the partnership would be beneficial for both organizations.
The partnership was formed with the purpose of engaging young professionals and giving them a voice, by allowing them to have exclusive access to the Candidate Forum on The Exchange.
If you’re not familiar with The Exchange, it is, according to NHPR’s website, “New Hampshire’s only locally produced statewide call-in talk show. NHPR listeners have a daily forum to discuss important issues and speak directly with elected officials.” A typical show consists of Laura Knoy and the guest(s) in studio, and includes live participation by phone and email from listeners around the state. However, as the primary approached, the decision was made to mix things up. Faith Meixell and Ellen Grim, both Producers informed me that “Leading up to the presidential primary, we decided to do the interview in front of a live audience, to give folks even more direct access to the candidates.” This is where CYPN came in.
Meixell and Grim both said that having any type of studio audience affects the way candidates act. “They are less formal, and sometimes show more of their personality.” Of course much of what a live studio audience brings to any interview is the questions they ask. CYPN members asked questions about some of the biggest topics of the day, including; health care, veteran’s issues and Supreme Court nominations. Baker said, “If you went in with an open mind, you could walk away feeling very differently about a candidate after seeing them in such an intimate setting.”
When I spoke with Alfieri about CYPN’s opportunity to be part of the Candidate Forum, she could not have been more enthusiastic. “Partnering with NHPR to bring candidates to a Concord Young Professionals Network audience during primary season was an incredibly effective way to bring young people into the political process,” she said. “We were so pleased to be in the audience and to ask questions to a wide variety of candidates. Laura Knoy and Josh Rodgers are wonderful hosts and each taping was engaging and interesting.”
Lane echoed Alfieri’s sentiment, adding “I think both organizations were pleased with how the forums went and found it mutually beneficial.”
So with the New Hampshire Primary over, what does the future hold for the partnership between New Hampshire Public Radio and the Concord Young Professionals Network? According to Lane, there has been discussion around expanding it to whomever the general election candidates might be, but there are no solid plans yet.
As a CYPN member myself, I personally hope the partnership continues not just into the general election, but to all state elections and future presidential primaries for many years to come. As a young professional in New Hampshire, it feels good to know that NHPR values the contributions of young professionals in the political process. In the words of Baker, “HUGE props to NHPR for allowing us to partner with them.”
Thank you to the members of CYPN and all the staff at NHPR. Special thanks to Michael Rathke, Faith Meixell and Ellen Grim of NHPR, Elyssa Alfieri and Christina Baker of CYPN, and Angie Lane, who has a foot in both camps! This post would not have been possible without their contributions and guidance.