The Iowa Reporter in the Middle of the 2020 Action

“Sometimes the D.C. press focuses more on the horse race,” said David Kochel, a longtime Republican operative who was a strategist for Jeb Bush last time around. “At local outlets — The Des Moines Register, specifically — it’s usually easy to get policy and issues covered in a way that is away from the typical political-process angles.”

The Register’s endorsement will receive national coverage when it appears in the coming weeks. And its Iowa Poll, done in collaboration with CNN and Mediacom for the 2020 campaign, is the talk of the political cognoscenti whenever a new edition drops, as one did last Friday.

“They winnow the field,” Carol Hunter, the paper’s executive editor, said of the local citizens, “and I think they feel like they’re playing a role in the destiny of the nation.

“Our job is to serve Iowans,” she added. “If it’s that important to Iowa, it’s got to be that important to The Des Moines Register.”

Register reporters have gone on to cover politics at national outlets including The Associated Press, The Washington Post and The New York Times. Jeff Zeleny, the senior White House correspondent at CNN, and a former Times reporter, covered the 2000 caucuses for The Register.

“The people you met stayed on as sources,” Mr. Zeleny said.

And The Register’s coverage is read all around the country — not just on the internet, where its site is available through a special subscription geared to politics junkies, but in the print editions of other Gannett papers, a category that doubled to more than 260 dailies across 47 states in November, when Gannett merged with the parent company of GateHouse Media.

Such consolidation, along with the industry trends prompting it, has caused worry at Gannett publications such as The Register, which has its roots in a paper that was started in an abandoned log cabin in 1849. The daily, which was sold to Gannett for $165 million in 1985, has won more than a dozen Pulitzer Prizes in its history.