“The Trouble with Iowa: Corn, corruption, and the presidential caucuses,” by Richard Manning, was the cover story in the February issue of Harper’s Magazine. That alone is impact, as the venerable magazine has a gravitas that extends beyond its 560,000 monthly readers; it is one of a handful of publications that continues to help set the media world’s broader agenda. Also, the timing of the piece was perfect, appearing as it did on the cusp of the much-anticipated Iowa caucuses. People were ready to read something that was intelligently provocative—as Manning always is—and that put all the political blather and horserace coverage of the preceding months in meaningful context.
Manning powerfully described the way politics, agriculture, and environmental degradation intersect in Iowa, which is held up as a presidential kingmaker every four years. For all these reasons, this piece echoed across the informational landscape. Manning was interviewed on MSNBC, The Leonard Lopate Show (WNYC), WHYY, Wisconsin Public Radio, Heritage Radio, and by prominent blogger April Streeter for Ethical Corporation. The story also won an International Association of Culinary Professionals award for “Food Writing That Makes a Difference.”
In the social realm, it was lauded with prominent tweets from Michael Pollan, Josh Viertel (the former head of Slow Food USA), the Christian Science Monitor’s David Unger, Stephanie Miller with New Food Economy, and many others. The political, media, and food elite took note, with mentions from Politico, The Nation, AgWeb, Food Tank and others.
Manning’s piece was the type of sharply-drawn essay that FERN is well-positioned to deliver. It is a different kind of piece than the deep investigative and explanatory dives that have thus far been our signature offerings. And while that work will continue to be at the heart of what we do, “The Trouble With Iowa” demonstrated another effective way for FERN to cover our beat. To read a Q&A with Manning and FERN Editor at Large, George Black, click here.