Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Iowa editor Art Cullen parlays Pulitzer Prize into a memoir of rural journalism, community issues, politics and his town

Art Cullen, who led his family's weekly newspaper to a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing last year, has written a book about his life as a journalist in Iowa, with much about the politics and issues of the state and the town where he grew up and still edits the Storm Lake Times.

Storm Lake: A Chronicle of Change, Resilience and Hope from a Heartland Newspaper, was published by Penguin Random House today. It may be the best memoir ever published by a crusading editor of a rural newspaper. That is evident in an early excerpt.

Amazon says the book is "an unsentimental ode to America's heartland as seen in small-town Iowa" and Cullen writes with "the optimism and the stubbornness that is still the state's, and his, dominant quality. . . . Cullen describes how the rural prairies have changed dramatically over his career, as seen from the vantage point of a farming and meatpacking town of 15,000 in Northwest Iowa."

From right: Art Cullen, wife Dolores, son Tom, sister-in-law
Mary, brother John in the office of the Storm Lake Times
Storm Lake is not a typical rural town, but perhaps a leading indicator of change in rural America, as the home of a meatpacking plant and residents who speak 30 languages. Amazon says, "Storm Lake's people are the book's heart: the family that swam the Mekong River to find Storm Lake; the Latina with a baby who wonders if she'll be deported from the only home she has known; the farmer who watches markets in real time and tries to manage within a relentless agriculture supply chain that seeks efficiency for cheaper pork, prepared foods, and ethanol."

Cullen and his family won the 2017 Tom and Pat Gish Award for courage, integrity and tenacity in rural journalism, given by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, publisher of The Rural Blog.

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