It was the tweet that made broadcast television history. CBS & Twitter hosted the Debate in Des Moines, Iowa, a key battleground state. This is the first time that the mega social media platform Twitter helped a broadcast network host a debate. Moderators were equipped with real time analytic tools to find interesting and relevant tweets out of the millions sent each minute using #DemDebate. Andy Grewal, a Tax Law Professor at the University of Iowa College of Iowa was live tweeting the debate. “I had no idea that Twitter was doing anything to further interaction or that CBS was paying attention to tweets.” Grewal, reached by email, told me. He also adds that he was just tweeting as a form of amusement.
Hillary Clinton began talking about her big and small donors, saying that her work on the September 11 attacks were part of the reason that people supported her campaign. That prompted Grewal to send this:
The tweet got the attention of Nancy Cordes, one the debate moderators, who displayed it to Clinton herself. She said she felt “sorry” for the person who felt that way, and the donations were in fact because people like how she “stood up [and took leadership during 9/11]” and liked what she does–even if they do not necessarily agree with her. Grewal modestly dismissed any special observation on his part, saying, “I think a lot of people had a strong reaction to Clinton’s statement…I just happened to express my concerns in an especially pithy way.” He noted that it also may have helped that he is an Iowan and “most Iowan[s] were probably watching the Hawkeye football game, so it may have been hard to find someone from Iowa tweeting about the debate.”
With an estimated 8.5 million people watching, Grewal says people who know him have been “very excited” for him, with even some of his families and friends beginning to use Twitter just because of his tweet.
Grewal’s account has gained more than 1,000 followers, most of which can be credited to his popular debate tweets. “Most of [the rest of my] my posts will relate to nerdy law-related stuff. I also follow developments in higher education and will continue to tweet about things like campus unrest.” Grewal says he will live-tweet the other debates later this month.