More than ‘unbuilt land’: Iowans react to Politico reporter’s tweet


By Amber Mohmand/Iowa State Daily

Clouds roll in over hills at Ames High Prairie. A Politico reporter tweeted numerous complaints about Iowa on Friday, including that it is “very flat.”

Amber Mohmand

Iowans are sounding off after Sally Goldenberg, city hall bureau chief and reporter for Politico New York, tweeted her observations from the state on Friday.

Goldenberg, who covers New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, wrote on Twitter about a perceived lack of almond milk in Iowa and her troubles with its landscape.

This statement cause and uproar on Twitter, and more than 3,000 Twitter users responded to the tweet. While some of the responses agreed to the tweet or found it amusing, the company Raygun had turned this into a t-shirt.

Several people disagreed with the statement Goldenberg made about Iowa’s landscape and lack of almond milk, claiming that this statement was over generalized.

Some Twitter users described the tweet was an “offensive post” and said it painted a false picture of Iowa. Other responses were more angry and told Goldenberg to “get a life.”

Several students at Iowa State University replied to this tweet, including Ashton Ayers, a junior in political science. Ayers responded to the tweet twice, once in a reply to another user’s comment with a quote about Iowa’s landscape.

Ayers said his first reaction to Goldenberg’s tweet was to quote a writer named Paul Engles, who is from Iowa, and said Iowa is a wonderful place, but many people have a stereotypical opinion that the state is boring and flat. Ayers said the quote was really indicative of the current situation.

“This is a beautiful, wonderful place,” Ayers said. “Sometimes you have to know where to find it because so much of the land is terraformed, whether it is a city or whether it is a farmland.”

Ayers later responded directly to Goldenberg’s tweet promising her that residents could personally show her their favorite spots.

Ayers said he did not think this tweet was ill intended, but it showed Goldenberg spoke without depth. He said he found the post to be shallow and stereotypical.

Goldenberg confirmed there was no malintent behind her tweet and she intended to write a playful observation of her time in Iowa. 

“I intended to write a light-hearted, self-effacing tweet about my time in Iowa, which is a beautiful state, but my humor did not translate,” Goldenberg said. “I in no way meant any offense to Iowans and apologize to anyone I insulted. Indeed, Iowa caucus-goers do have a unique and impressive knowledge of the expansive field of candidates.” 

Ayers explained it should be the responsibility of the reporter to be more informed of the area they are covering, and he thought Goldenberg’s tweet a statement that showed she did not have an accurate perception of Iowa.

“It showed that she was defaulting to stereotype and presumptions as opposed to actually looking into what our state is actually like, what the people are like, everything,” Ayers said.

Ayers also brought on the idea that the company, Politico, should hire more local freelance reporters to gain an inside perspective of Iowa. He said there are a lot of articulate writers that understand the state more than a reporter from New York or Los Angeles.

He said he believes over generalization is a cultural problem within national media, and national reporters should be held at a higher standards. Ayers said media corporations should hire people from the state that could give a deeper and well rounded opinion rather than sending a reporter that has less knowledge of the topics.

“National reporting doesn’t really mandate that, and they actually kind of make their money off these stereotypical statements that they make, about states like Iowa,” Ayers said. “It’s laziness, it’s shallow, and it doesn’t actually tell a true story, and its more misleading than informed.”


Editor’s Note: The story has been updated to include a comment from Goldenberg