How Twitter shaped coverage of the 2012 election

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Romney stares at a blank sheet of paper. Finally readies his pen, begins slowly writing, speaking aloud: “Look — at — those — clouds…” – Alex Pareene (@pareene)

Alex Pareene reflects on how Twitter humor shaped coverage of the 2012 election:

In elections past, the sort of stuff reporters joke about—Joe Biden telling a Virginia rally it could win North Carolina; Mitt Romney admiring clouds—might have ended up in pool reports, seen and appreciated only by other journalists. The Internet gives the campaign press ways to publicize the weird details that otherwise might not make it into print. The behind-the-curtain material that makes The Boys on the Bus and Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72 so readable is now more often than not shared with the world in real time.

But in those books, weird details generally served a better understanding of a candidate’s character; on Twitter, they reduce a candidate to his stupidest moments for a quick laugh. And at a certain point (let’s say that point was when Time released photos of Paul Ryan dressed like Poochie, the ‘cool dog’ character from the ‘Simpsons’) the ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ routine subsumed the other part of campaign coverage, where you explain the state of the race and the issues involved to normal people.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.