Monday, April 17, 2017

Iowa twice-weekly that won Pulitzer Prize has since generated $4,000 in new subscriptions

Art Cullen being interviewed
by KCCI-TV of Des Moines
Winning the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing has put a small Iowa newspaper in the national spotlight and is drawing a huge response in the fight for open government by the paper and its allies, Erik Wemple reports for The Washington Post.

The Storm Lake Times, a 3,000-circulation, twice-weekly, won the Pulitzer for a series of columns written by co-owner Art Cullen about the battle between Des Moines Water Works and the rural northwest Iowa counties of Sac, Calhoun and Buena Vista to pay for cleaning up nitrate runoff from farms to the Raccoon River, part of the watershed that provides drinking water for 500,000 central Iowa residents served by the utility. Storm Lake is in Buena Vista County.

The Times also dug into who was paying the counties' legal bills to defend the water works' now-dismissed lawsuit, finding that the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation was a secret donor for the counties' legal bills. That discovery helped lead to the "dark money" contributors bailing out.

Cullen, who said part of the $15,000 prize will go to charities and the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, said the Times has generated $4,000 in new subscriptions since winning the award, Wemple writes. Cullen told him that it's “almost all online and with little interest in Storm Lake, just people wanting to contribute to the cause."

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