Max Kohn

Politics, Sports & Film Writer, The Paper

Published on February 28, 2022

The term “Twitter journalist” is obviously a new, 21st century term. These journalists have become a very big part of American politics nowadays and are looked at by many who follow politics to get their news. Twitter journalists are different from journalists that are on Twitter; as most journalists are on Twitter. As I view it, a Twitter journalist is someone who posts political clips onto Twitter, usually with a caption. And while there are many in the field, one of the original and most well known (he has, at the time of me writing this article, 720k followers on Twitter), Aaron Rupar, never intended to be a Twitter journalist. He didn’t even intend on being a journalist at all. So in an interview with him, I asked how it all came about. “I never studied journalism but obviously I broke in journalism writing for print publications” he continued later “I kind of really stumbled into it. I went to graduate school for philosophy and I was going to be a philosophy professor. And just to help pay bills I started writing part time for a community paper in the twin cities. And I seemed to have a pretty good knack for it. I would basically have to go to city council meetings or like planning commission meetings for a suburban community and just write about what the city news was.” After moving on from this small local job and another job in a rural town, he got a job that really started his career as a journalist. He says, “The job that really made my career was writing for an alternative weekly paper in the twin cities. That was the first job I had where you could write with a voice and with some humor.” This humor and wit fueled what makes Rupar so well known today: his tweets.

When it comes to Twitter journalists, Rupar was one of the earliest ones and the one who arguably most influenced this as a kind of journalism. Rupar is most known for his coverage of Fox News, Trump rallies, and congressional activities (press briefings, hearings, etc.). He became most well known during the Trump years, posting clips and providing commentary that usually corrected the lies that came from Trump and his allies. He told me the story of his first encounter posting a clip,“I actually really kind of stumbled into it during the Trump years. I posted a clip [on Twitter] of a Fox News interview that John Kelly, who at that point was the White House chief of staff, did in the fall of 2017, kind of on just a lark because we had just gotten trained on “snapstream.” At that time I was at ThinkProgress, which no longer exists, but was a progressive news site that was actually the first job I had in DC. I posted this short clip of the interview he did where John Kelly was kind of defending confederate generals and this was at the time where like the Charlottesville stuff was in the news and so there was a whole lot of national discussion over sort of whether it’s appropriate to be honoring these confederate figures. Obviously Trump thought that it was and so John Kelly was kind of saying look ‘I don’t think they really fought for slavery I thought they fought for these other causes and I posted this video because I just happened to catch the interview at home and overnight it did a couple thousand retweets which was by far the most retweets I had ever posted had gotten and it kind of literally overnight opened my eyes to wow “there’s this huge appetite for…[these kind of political videos].”

After his first initial success, his videos started picking up steam. More and more political snippets were being viewed by thousands of Twitter users. On why it’s become so popular he says, “That technique that I just talked about became a popular thing during the Trump years which is when I really started doing video work because there was just so much stuff happening that was visually compelling.” This video work, and his work at ThinkProgress, landed Rupar a job at Vox, a progressive news site. Rupar wrote about politics which further launched him into the canon of journalists during the Trump era. With more and more congresspeople retweeting his tweets, Rupar became an officially well known Twitter journalist by 2019. About becoming a well known figure he says “I’m kind of one of those strange creatures these days that you know I feel like I’m a little bit famous online but not so much in real life.”

Now, almost every day, if not a few times a week, Rupar posts screenshots and videos concerning American politics. He says, “For most people who are just too busy to be kind of immersed in this stuff everyday, my feed for some people has kind of become a place that they go to get caught up”. One specific type of video that Rupar shares which I personally always like to view is debate in any form. This can come on Sundays when political leaders go on Sunday morning news shows, it can be during hearings, and many more. Not only does Rupar post the videos of political leaders being challenged, he himself, with his captions, often corrects false statements or provides a differing view than the one in the video. Often, when an argument gets repeated enough times on Fox News, or other Republicans will say outlandish things, Rupar tends to add some comedy to his captions. “There’s a lot of absurdity in American politics these days. And some of it is really scary and dark, and sometimes you can have a laugh over it so to keep yourself sane it’s important to maintain a sense of humor,” he says. This, arguably, set Rupar apart from the other Twitter journalists coming up during the Trump era. His comedic takes on the craziness of the Trump administration, made his tweets stand out and garner up millions of views (once getting 10 million on a video) and hundreds

Aaron Rupar and Max Kohn Screencap
Screencap of Aaron Rupar Interview

Even though Rupar didn’t originally intend on being a journalist, he’s become very knowledgeable on the profession and politics itself. We talked about the state of journalism and the problems with covering the Trump administration while also trying to remain non-partisan. He says, “I think where a lot of journalists got into trouble is where you’re just quoting [Trump] verbatim and he’s lying. We saw this a lot during covid where Trump, during that once news conference where he was talking about…swallowing bleach…I think saying ‘If you take the disinfectant inside,’ that was an instance where if you were a journalist just quoted what he was saying and didn’t try to fact check him or if you didn’t know; a lot of political journalists aren’t experts in public health or in chemicals. And it’s still a challenge with Republicans more broadly these days where you can’t just trust that they’re not trying to manipulate you by saying something that is incorrect but it can help them if journalists just sort of incredulously report it out or quote them” he continued.“If you’re misleading [your followers] in some way even if it’s because a politician is doing it you’re just kind of quoting them you’re sort of failing at your job and so it’s a very complicated thing”

When we discussed the current political state and the midterms, he said that the state of the pandemic and the economy will influence what voters will consider the big issues. When talking about the choice of voters as it concerns Trump’s big lie, he explains it like this “The way to frame this election is a choice between authoritarianism and democracy because that’s been demonstrated and if we don’t have free and fair elections these other issues aren’t going to matter as much.” We also talked about the upcoming midterms. We both agreed about the concept (which I wrote an article about) that if Democrats don’t focus on the big lie in the midterms, not only will they lose the majorities in congress, but they will open up possibilities for Trump’s allies (secretaries of state, attorneys general etc.) across the country to overturn fair results. When predicting the 2024 race, Rupar said that, disregarding a potential health issue for either candidate, Biden and Trump will most certainly run again, and that the race will be close again.

After leaving Vox this past September, Rupar has started his own newsletter called “Public Notice.”, in which he delves into current political issues and provides context, analysis, and his own opinions on them. In his newsletter, he does what he realized he did so well at that small alternative weekly paper in Minneapolis; writing with a voice. The newsletter has been successful, amassing a total of 14,000 subscribers. As for his future, Rupar said he’s content with his situation of being his own boss but wouldn’t rule out being a political contributor on a news network. However, he said that he expects to just be doing the newsletter until at least 2024. After all, he said he likes being a media critic and being able to be an objective reporter on the media. 

For someone who didn’t even intend to be a journalist in the first place, Aaron Rupar has made quite the name for himself. He’s exposed countless right wing leaders and frustrated the GOP’s contingent on Twitter. He’s provided thoughtful insight on the current political climate and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Rupar has made it his primary job to stop false political arguments/theories in their paths and give the public the truth. As for this goal, it is my opinion that he’s most definitely succeeded. For me personally, I’ve been able to see both sides of political arguments and get most of my news in the most 2022 way there is: in a video or in a tweet, but usually both.

You can find Aaron Rupar on Twitter at https://twitter.com/atrupar?s=21

The link to his newsletter: https://aaronrupar.substack.com

The link to the full interview: