The Seven Twitter Cliches of Iowa

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 3 2012 9:40 AM

The Seven Twitter Cliches of Iowa

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- Reporting from here means spending a lot of time driving, a lot of hurry-up-and-wait, a lot of random run-ins with political figures doing TV hits. In the age of Twitter, all of this stuff is overshared. I've identified seven cliches (and saying they're cliches isn't saying they're unworthy uses of the medium) that dominate the #iacaucus feeds.

1) Look at what I'm eating! The tweet-conscious reporter, as he or she drives around Iowa, encounters fatty food that he/she can't easily find back in Washington or New York. This must be photographed and shared with the world. "Look!" says the food-pic-tweeter. "I have walked the path of the average voter. I have tasted his fare, and supped of his wisdom."

Screen shot 2012-01-03 at 8.58.33 AM

2) Somebody said something! The reporters forced to "embed" with candidates (tracking everything they do with HD cameras) or the ones who force themselves to ride campaign buses, watch the same speeches over and over and over and over again. After a point the content of the speeches becomes a dull blur, but the reporter must prove that he is doing... stuff.

Screen shot 2012-01-03 at 8.59.32 AM

3) I see my friends! The downtime between events never stops dragging. You hustle to get to a speech. You set up your computer or your camera. You see who else is there. You tweet. They see the tweet. They retweet. To paraphrase a great artist: You've got this, I've got this, your friend is on your right, ayyy.

Screen shot 2012-01-03 at 8.59.10 AM

4) I'm not there, so why are you? You're not in Iowa. You know it's a pointless charade. You don't want to analyze what happens so much as analyze why it's so crazy to see 1500-odd reporters there, or how the election could have been better if the primary system wasn't so stupid. You see a parade and want to empty buckets on it.

Screen shot 2012-01-03 at 9.00.10 AM

5) I am here, so why aren't you? What else to do with your campaign downtime? You realize that much of the caucus circus is a TV show, with more cameras showing up every day, making it harder and harder to report. It's annoying, but it's also proof that you're on top of a huge story. You must share this with the Twitter community.

Screen shot 2012-01-03 at 9.00.39 AM

6) Somebody said something (Version 2)! Some reporters are in Iowa to write straight-up stories with inside news from strategists and a few message lines from speeches. The weird moments from the stump will never make it into those articles. This is what Twitter is for.

Screen shot 2012-01-03 at 9.35.10 AM

7) It's cold outside! Did you realize that Iowa often gets cold in the winter months? It's true. Sometimes, when you drive from one place to another, snow falls on the road. Sometimes wind blows your car back and forth. This might, might matter on election day, if it stops people turning out in some areas. More likely, it doesn't matter, and you are just taking a chance to prove how hardy you are.

Screen shot 2012-01-03 at 10.36.05 AM

I've probably sent a version of each of these tweets, but I bet I'm missing a couple cliches. Nominate new ones in the comments.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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