Staff Columnist

New York journalist takes heat for Iowa tweet, and gets advice on finding almond milk

Old Iowa Postcard from 1930s. Front Image.
Old Iowa Postcard from 1930s. Front Image.

So Iowa’s Image Defense Forces swiftly scrambled over the weekend to respond to a New York journalist tweeting her observations about our fair state. They swarmed like white blood cells attacking a virus.

“Observations from Iowa --,” Sally Goldenberg, city hall bureau chief for Politico, began her Saturday tweet. “it is very flat, driving is monotonous, there is more unbuilt land in one block than NYC has in an entire borough, dirt roads are terrifying, no one carries almond milk and caucus-goers are extremely well-informed.”

Quickly came the responses. What about the rolling hills of Eastern Iowa? Check out Pikes Peak, why don’t you? What you call unbuilt land, we call farms. Our grocery stores stock an embarrassment of almond milks. An embarrassment. Gravel isn’t really terrifying.

Monotonous? Try Nebraska.

Goldenberg came to Iowa simply to cover New York Mayor Bill De Blasio’s first trip here as an announced presidential candidate. She did that, and inspired a new Raygun T-shirt immortalizing her observations.

The reaction here is understandable. Her tweet played on multiple lazy, tiresome Iowa stereotypes. She did say caucusgoers are well-informed, so there’s that. Thanks.

I haven’t seen this much homegrown outrage since early May when presidential aspirant Beto O’Rourke tweeted about eating “breakfast pizza” in Iowa when really he was just eating regular pizza for breakfast! He was immediately taken to Casey’s jail.

Still, you would think we’d have a thicker skin about this kind of stuff by now.

Part of the reason we staunchly defend Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses is the national and international attention they bring to the state. Our caucuses are important not only because they’re first, but also because media from across the nation and around the globe elevate their importance through tons of news coverage.

Every Iowan must be interviewed. I think it may be a law.

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Some of those visitors are not going to find our state as downright enchanting as we do. Although back in February I said stuff about Iowa I’m not proud of, and won’t repeat in a family newspaper.

Lazy stereotypes, clichés and flyover insults are par for the course in caucus coverage. They’re even more common than a terrifying ride on a flat dirt road.

But for every one of those cheap shots there are many more gauzy references to Grant Wood landscapes, charming small town diners and friendly people. The real Iowa, of course, is somewhere between monotonous and a slice of heaven.

And for every outside journalist who drops by for a weekend, there are others who have spent considerable time here getting to know the state and its people. More than a few national scribes covering the caucuses once worked as Iowa journalists. They’re far more likely to get us right, and far less likely to fire off a tweet that launches a new line of Raygun shirts.

And I don’t want to give visiting journalists the impression that if they can’t say anything nice, holster their tweeter and remain silent. We should welcome fresh, thoughtful perspectives on Iowa’s problems and challenges, from dirty water to declining small towns. So come, explore, stay. Find almond milk. So much almond milk.

l Comments: (319) 398-8262; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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