It’s a quadrennial certainty: Thousands of reporters will descend on New Hampshire for its first-in-the-nation primary, triggering questions about overkill. From the Twitter feed of media critic Howard Kurtz last Friday: “I’ve already run into hordes of reporters in NH in a couple of hours. We’re tripping over each other here.”
Kurtz was referring to physical tripping.
Now we have a case of reporters Internet-ally tripping over each other. The title of a piece by Katharine Q. Seelye of the New York Times: “Santorum Supporter Gets a Taste of the Big Leagues.” And the title of a piece by Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: “One New Hampshire volunteer’s path to Santorum.”
It’s Rod Olsen day in big-time U.S. daily newspapers! Yes, that’s the name of the volunteer profiled in quick succession by both the Times and the Post. Olsen’s a stay-at-home dad-cum-political consultant from California who flew into New Hampshire last week to volunteer for Rick Santorum’s campaign, though that’s putting things too simply: The guy agonized over who he’d help out even as he set out on his cross-country trip from California.
From the Post: Olsen, a political consultant from Modesto, tells Tumulty: “It was always on my bucket list to go to New Hampshire.”
From the Times: No mention of a “bucket list.”
From the Post: “At first, ‘Tim Pawlenty was my guy,’ he recalled.”
From the Times: “He initially supported Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, but Mr. Pawlenty dropped out.”
From the Post: “He had considered Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and former Godfathers Pizza CEO Herman Cain, but neither of them seemed capable of even getting this far. Finally, he volunteered to work for Romney, and bought a plane ticket for Jan. 4, the day after the Iowa caucuses.”
From the Times: “But then Rick Santorum, who lost Iowa to Mr. Romney by a mere eight votes, appeared on the television. His speech captivated Mr. Olsen, who said he liked that Mr. Santorum quoted C.S. Lewis and thanked God right off the bat. Mr. Olsen was suddenly torn. He wanted to work for Mr. Santorum.”
From the Post: “By the end of the week, Olsen was driving the candidate and his family from place to place.”
From the Times: “By the end of the six-day sprint that is the New Hampshire primary, Mr. Olsen found himself so close to Mr. Santorum that he was driving him and his family to various campaign events.”
From the Post: “Olsen’s idyll comes to an end on Wednesday. Santorum heads for South Carolina, and Olsen has to get back to his kids. But he says: ‘I’ll be rooting for him. I’ll be praying. And come Nevada? Nevada is only a little bit away.’”
From the Times: “’Only in New Hampshire,’ he said as he watched Mr. Santorum at a rally here, his final event of the day. ‘This could only happen in New Hampshire.’”
So what we have here are two outlets writing the exact same story at nearly the same time. Evidence of overkill? Nah — in journalism you always need three examples to keep your stool standing.
Well, what do you know? Time magazine did the same story, too! (And, if Internet time stamps are to be trusted, earlier than the bigs cited above.) Though the Olsen stuff is buried in a larger story about Santorum, the key data points are all there:
One of the familiar figures in his traveling entourage is Rod Olsen, a stay-at-home dad and self-described political junkie from California who had booked a trip to New Hampshire to take in the unique brand of retail politics the first-in-the-nation primary provides. “This is like fantasy baseball camp for me,” says Olsen, who had planned to volunteer for Mitt Romney until he heard Santorum’s stirring speech Tuesday night in Iowa. Deciding Santorum’s “values were more in line with my own,” Olsen called the local campaign office and offered to help out—which he did for several days this week, guarding the door during an interview in Dublin, standing in the spin room after Sunday morning’s debate, grinning as he took in the scene.
Let’s see if the cable networks catch Rod Olsen fever.