A Big Win for a Small One!!

     “Holy shit”, Art Cullen yelled out to his brother, John, the publisher of the family run, 10 persons Storm Lake (lowa) Times, when the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing was announced. Because, it was such a surprise for him, not only for him, for the whole world!

     Art Cullen, editor of the twice weekly "Storm Lake Times", won the Pulitzer Prize on Monday for his editorial writing. Cullen won the Pulitzer Prize for editorials that were fuelled by tenacious reporting, impressive expertise and engaging writing that successfully

challenged powerful corporate agricultural interests in Lowa.

     The winning work is a series of 10 editorials on a lawsuit filed by the Des Moines Water Works against drainage districts in Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac counties in northwest lowa. The lawsuit accused the districts of funneling high levels of nitrates into the Raccon River. The editorials covered a fund organized by the Agribusiness Association of lowa, which was being used for the three counties’ legal defense. Donors’ names were being kept secret.

     Talking about the honor – which includes a $15,000 prize – the award is shared with his son Tom, a reporter at his paper, for doing much of the reporting, an-d lowa Freedom of information Council Executive Director Randy Evans, for his help with public records requests, he said.

     Cullen, a Storm Lake native, had previously worked at newspapers in Algona, Ames and Mason City. He studied journalism at the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, Minn.

     Cullen’s brother John founded 

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the Storm Lake Times in June 1990. Art Cullen and his wife, Dolores, a photographer, joined it a few months later.

     The twice weekly newspaper, serving a town of a little over 10,000 people, may not previously have been widely read outside Buena Vista County, north-west lowa, but Cullen’s editorials certainly caught the attention of the Pulitzer committee. He beat writers from Washington Post and Houston Chronicle to the award.

     Like any successful newspapers, the Times know what its readers want. “We strive to have a baby, a dog, a fire and a crash on every front page,” Cullen has said.
 
“     Art has attacked local farmers, lawyers, county supervisors, Monsanto, the Koch Brothers, agribusiness and the Republican Party-all icons in northwest lowa,” Says  Richard Longworth, a retired and esteemed Chicago Tribune 

reporter and foreign correspondent who has chronicled the changing Midwest economy in recent years for the Chicago Council on global affairs.

     Cullen’s’ Pulitzer Prize has proved that small newspapers too report relevant issues rather than the sensational ones which we think. This winning is an encouragement for those who run small local newspapers.
 
     The office of the Times does not have much in common with the flashy, glass-fronted newsrooms of many of those he beat to the prize. Here, reporters sit with piles of newspapers to find news for their newspaper.

     Circumstances are same for almost all the small scale newspapers around the globe. What we need is to stop promoting sensationalism. Because, ‘Sensationalism dies quickly, fear is long lived’- Agatha Christie.

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