BBC journalists visit southern Ohio

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 26, 2008

As Clinton fans thronged the Shawnee State University gym to hear the former president campaign for his wife, there were two in the crowd who were listening with a distinctly unique point of view.

The pair — Kevin Connolly and Mark Yates — were BBC-Radio journalists who were in southern Ohio Monday as part of an on-going tour of the United States to get the feel of this unique American presidential campaign.

After covering the morning Clinton rally in Portsmouth, Connolly and Yates stopped by the offices of The Ironton Tribune to get an Ohio perspective from newspaper publisher Michael Caldwell.

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The duo started this journalistic project in early January with the Iowa Caucus and have followed the candidates and the voters ever since broadcasting the series daily.

“American democracy is exhausting,” Connolly said.

“We came to The Tribune because of our interest in small-town American life. More people live in small-town USA.”

Connolly’s love of history drew him to Ironton because of its one-time international reputation in the pig iron industry.

“Metals for the first ironclad ships came here,” Connolly said. “When I was looking at a map of Ohio, the name of the town caught my eye.”

So far Connolly has interviewed a cross section of American society from bankers to nurses to small businessmen, including Ironton car dealer Bob Clyse.

“The great thing about Americans is their unfailing hospitality,” he said. “They are ready to share their views, happy to share their thoughts.”

As to Connolly’s thoughts on the momentum of the Barack Obama campaign, the journalist said the junior senator from Illinois broke slow but has gained undeniable speed.

“Obama has found his voice,” Connolly said. “At the beginning he was quite wordy and dense. He has developed a powerful oratorical voice.”

As much as the campaign captivates the home court, it resonates just as strongly with those outside America, he said.

“You have a feel when a story is engaging people back in the home town,” Connolly said. “Many people in Britain want to know what is going on in this scene. Both Obama and Clinton represent something so different. Outsiders are really engaged with this.”

Caldwell, the object of BBC interest, finds validity in Connolly’s observation.

“The world has taken such an interest in American politics and by extension, Ohio politics because of what happened four years ago and eight years ago,” he said. “Obviously, Ohio is important on the national level when it comes to deciding the president. It is amazing the world wide attention that Ohio and small towns across the state are getting.”