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Earning Iowa: Local Newspapers and the Invisible Primary*

Social Science Quarterly

Published online on


--- - |2+ Objectives Can presidential candidates influence their coverage in Iowa's smaller local newspapers? I extend the approach of previous research by examining the impact of campaign press releases on newspaper stories before the 2016 Iowa caucuses. Methods I coded the topic and tone of candidate press releases, and located “hits” in Iowa newspapers between September 2015 and January 2016 for the top two Democratic and Republican candidates. Results Press releases were used primarily for information dissemination in Iowa, while competitive messages decreased as a share of campaign communications. Small, weekly community newspapers hardly covered the campaign. Conclusions Newspapers in cities outside the state capital are ripe for campaign influence through the Associated Press and deserve more scrutiny, since their combined circulation rivals the largest state newspaper. Media–candidate relations are changing, but press releases remain a critical tool for campaigns to earn local coverage. - 'Social Science Quarterly, EarlyView. '