The Storm Lake Times won the Pulitzer Prize,the most prestigious award in global journalism, for engaging writing that successfully challenged powerful corporate agricultural interests in Iowa.
Hard-hitting and sensitive journalism remained undaunted in the US, despite steep financial pressures and visible antagonism from the new presidential administration, as the industry presented its highest honors on Monday, the coveted Pulitzer Prizes.
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 Iowa, but Cullen’s editorials – “fuelled by tenacious reporting, impressive expertise and engaging writing that successfully challenged powerful corporate agricultural interests in Iowa” – certainly caught the attention of the Pulitzer committee. They beat writers from the Washington Post and Houston Chronicle to the award.
The paper will pocket $15,000 (£12,000) – no small sum for its nine staff, which include Cullen, his brother John (the paper’s publisher), son Tom (reporter), wife Dolores (photographer) and John’s wife Mary (author of the My Favourite Recipes column). The family dog Mabel (“the news hound”) is another newsroom regular.
The prize was not exactly expected. Cullen, 59, was watching a live stream video on the Pulitzer site, he told Poynter, “and they went through national reporting, local reporting, etc, and then got to editorial writing and said “Art Cullen”, and I started screaming to my brother, “Holy shit, we won!” … I started screaming and he thought I had gone nuts.”
The office of the Times, which was founded in 1990 by John Cullen, does not have much in common with the flashy, glass-fronted newsrooms of many of those he beat to the prize, he said.