The World’s Most Powerful Local Paper Is in Delaware

From a story on by Alex Thompson and Theodoric Meyer headlined “The world’s most powerful local paper”:

To this day, President Joe Biden still gets the paper edition of Delaware’s The News Journal delivered to his home in Wilmington. When a News Journal reporter was at the briefings during the transition, they would often get a question.

The White House declined to comment on how often the president reads his old paper, but old habits have died hard as he has ascended the rungs of national politics. As vice president, he had a special section in his morning news clips for News Journal stories and editorials. As a senator, aides remember he always had a hard copy on his morning Amtrak ride….

Like many local papers, Delaware’s leading paper is a skeleton of its former self. Its staffing is way down, the paper version is thinner, and print circulation is a fraction of past highs….

Yet the paper — its current reporters, its past ones and its archives — offers insight into the president that one can’t find anywhere else in the world….

The News Journal waved a red flag on Hunter Biden’s ethical conflicts well over a decade ago. The archives are rich with details about the tension between Biden’s working-class image and the “blueblood company he keeps in the corporate state,” as Maureen Milford once wrote. And Biden’s now oft-remarked-upon empathetic gifts are on display throughout the clips covering his eulogies and remarks during state tragedies….

Asked if she had any “hot takes” on the Biden presidency so far, Meredith Newman said: “We’re not really a ‘hot take’ kind of place.”…

A 1977 column mocked Biden for saying he might not run for reelection, quipping: “It would be a waste of his obvious political talents–to say nothing of those hair-transplant operations–for Biden, at the age of 36, to return to trying burglary cases in Court of Common Pleas.”

They also see a very Delawarean approach to his presidency. In such a small state, where one is likely to run into political opponents and reporters at the grocery store or a niece’s track meet, politicians are known for their skill at managing relationships and bringing down the temperature of public debate, the reporters say.

Almost every past News Journal reporter we talked to is shocked to see Biden in the Oval Office now, in part because they just never thought the country would elect a president from Delaware. And if they did, it certainly would not be Joe Biden. Most thought if anyone even had a chance, it would have been past Republican Gov. Pete du Pont.

“It’s a political miracle,” said one.

But Biden outlasted many of the paper’s veteran political reporters, many of whom are now retired. He also outlasted du Pont, who passed away last week….

Biden’s personal affection for the paper has not always trickled down to his staff. During the primary and general campaigns, Biden spokespeople ignored interview requests. When the paper was using its archives for a detailed story on Biden’s past busing stances, they had to rely on comments the Biden team gave to CNN and the Washington Post because the campaign didn’t respond.

As for whether Biden still gets the paper copy in Washington, it appears to be a state secret. The White House declined to say….

The News Journal does not cover Washington in depth any longer, and sees its value add in covering local issues. It writes about the president, of course, but sometimes just to cover all the traffic Biden’s entourage causes when he returns to Wilmington, which is often.

“Biden’s weekend return causes big traffic tie-ups; Delays during Friday commute last more than hour,” read one March headline.

Alex Thompson is a White House correspondent and co-author of Transition Playbook. He is currently working on a book about the Biden administration to be published by Simon & Schuster. He previously covered the 2020 election for POLITICO and has written for The New York Times, Vice News, and Esquire.

Theodoric Meyer covers lobbying for POLITICO. He previously covered the 2016 campaign for POLITICO and worked as a reporting fellow for ProPublica in New York. He’s a graduate of McGill University and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

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