Winter, 2000: The state of New Hampshire was experiencing its quadrennial stint at the center of the political universe. From Portsmouth to Berlin, Nashua to Hanover and points in between, signs and billboards dotted the roads and highways.
Bush, McCain, Forbes, Gore and Bradley were the names with the most support. I was a sophomore at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, experiencing something that was neither mentioned in the school's brochure nor my tuition bill: The opportunity to cover the presidential primary for WUNH
-FM, the student-run radio station. If had any doubts about pursuing a career in journalism, they vanished during those few months.
I had a window into the world of media and politics unlike any I could have imagined. Only in New Hampshire, and I suppose Iowa, could a college student with no real world experience interview candidates for President of the United States. And I like to think I didn'
t disappoint my loyal listeners -- and by loyal listeners I mean my mother.
Take for instance what was arguably my highest-profile moment -- the time I asked then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush a question so provocative and unprecedented that the pundits still mention it today. "Governor," I said, "what did you think of the debate?" With insightful questions like that I'm surprised CNN didn'
t hire me on the spot.
There was nowhere else I would have rather been that winter. The candidates, the debates, the crowds -- I was on cloud nine. But before I knew it, it was all over. The votes were cast, the ballots were tallied and John McCain and Al Gore had been declared the winners. McCain's Straight Talk Express was headed to South Carolina, as was the national press corps.
Overnight my journalistic clout had returned to below that of the weekly supermarket circular. It's a funny thing about the New Hampshire primary, at least for the local press. One night it's non-stop action, and the next morning it's done.
So, here's to New Hampshire. For the important role it plays in our electoral process, the education and experience I received on the campaign trail during the 2000 election and the student loans I am still paying off.
-- Jack Gray, 360 Associate Producer