Iowa on Iowa

Stephen Bloom, a journalism professor at the University of Iowa, recently wrote a piece for The Atlantic about Iowa (because everyone pays attention every four years, right?) and how funny it is. The response, at least in Iowa, has been pretty negative. The professor is apparently a little worried about his family’s safety.

The university is embarrassed by the story, too. Its president, Sally Mason, issued an open letter to the state, saying:

I disagree strongly with and was offended by Professor Bloom’s portrayal of Iowa and Iowans. Please know that he does not speak for the University of Iowa. As President of the University, I have the opportunity to travel far and wide across this great state frequently, and the Iowa I see is one of strong, hard-working and creative people. In this cynical world that can harden even the greatest optimist, the citizens of Iowa continue to believe.

At least some of the citizens of Iowa, however, are not only “continuing to believe,” but also cashing in. In Iowa City, where the university is located, one T-shirt shop has issued special new garments in response to the article. According to a piece by Emily Schettler in the Iowa City Press-Citizen:

“It was a gold mine,” said Mike Draper, owner of the popular customer T-shirt store that is based in Des Moines and has a store in Iowa City. “There was a lot to digest.”

Draper and his staff, who are known for developing humorous shirts that often poke fun at Iowa cities, decided to weigh in. Their latest shirt reads:

“Iowa: If you’re reading this congratulations! You’ve survived meth, Jesus, hunting accidents, crime-filled river slums, and old people. Unfortunately, you are going to die sad and alone soon.”

Draper also suggests, however, that Mason was misguided. How can she “disagree” with the article? It wasn’t an editorial. As Draper said to Schettler:

I don’t dispute that there are facts. But there are lots of facts. If you look at them a certain way, they kind of tell one story but if you look at them in context, they tell a total different story.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer