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Storm Lake: A Chronicle of Change, Resilience, and Hope from a Heartland Newspaper

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"A reminder that even the smallest newspapers can hold the most powerful among us accountable." --The New York Times Book Review "[The Storm Lake Times has an] unwavering commitment to elevating the community... Not the enemy of the people but a voice for the people." --Beto O'Rourke, Democratic Presidential Candidate, via Instagram From a Pulitzer-winning newspaperman, an "A reminder that even the smallest newspapers can hold the most powerful among us accountable." --The New York Times Book Review "[The Storm Lake Times has an] unwavering commitment to elevating the community... Not the enemy of the people but a voice for the people." --Beto O'Rourke, Democratic Presidential Candidate, via Instagram From a Pulitzer-winning newspaperman, an unsentimental ode to America's heartland--a story of reinvention and resilience, environmental and economic struggle, and surprising diversity and hope. When The Storm Lake Times, a tiny Iowa twice-weekly, won a Pulitzer Prize for taking on big corporate agri-industry for poisoning the local rivers and lake, it was a coup on many counts: a strike for the well being of a rural community; and a triumph for that endangered species, a family-run rural news weekly. In this candid and timely book, Cullen describes how the heartland has changed dramatically over his career, as seen from the vantage point of a farming and meatpacking town of 15,000 in Northwest Iowa. Politics, agriculture, the environment, and immigration are all themes in Storm Lake, a chronicle of a resilient newspaper, as much a survivor as its town. Iowa plays an outsize role in national politics. Iowa introduced Barack Obama and voted bigly for Donald Trump. Is the state leaning blue, red, or purple in the lead-up to 2020? Is it a bellwether for America? A nostalgic mirage from The Music Man, or a harbinger of America's future? Cullen's answer is complicated and honest--but with optimism and the stubbornness that is still the state's, and his, dominant quality.


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"A reminder that even the smallest newspapers can hold the most powerful among us accountable." --The New York Times Book Review "[The Storm Lake Times has an] unwavering commitment to elevating the community... Not the enemy of the people but a voice for the people." --Beto O'Rourke, Democratic Presidential Candidate, via Instagram From a Pulitzer-winning newspaperman, an "A reminder that even the smallest newspapers can hold the most powerful among us accountable." --The New York Times Book Review "[The Storm Lake Times has an] unwavering commitment to elevating the community... Not the enemy of the people but a voice for the people." --Beto O'Rourke, Democratic Presidential Candidate, via Instagram From a Pulitzer-winning newspaperman, an unsentimental ode to America's heartland--a story of reinvention and resilience, environmental and economic struggle, and surprising diversity and hope. When The Storm Lake Times, a tiny Iowa twice-weekly, won a Pulitzer Prize for taking on big corporate agri-industry for poisoning the local rivers and lake, it was a coup on many counts: a strike for the well being of a rural community; and a triumph for that endangered species, a family-run rural news weekly. In this candid and timely book, Cullen describes how the heartland has changed dramatically over his career, as seen from the vantage point of a farming and meatpacking town of 15,000 in Northwest Iowa. Politics, agriculture, the environment, and immigration are all themes in Storm Lake, a chronicle of a resilient newspaper, as much a survivor as its town. Iowa plays an outsize role in national politics. Iowa introduced Barack Obama and voted bigly for Donald Trump. Is the state leaning blue, red, or purple in the lead-up to 2020? Is it a bellwether for America? A nostalgic mirage from The Music Man, or a harbinger of America's future? Cullen's answer is complicated and honest--but with optimism and the stubbornness that is still the state's, and his, dominant quality.

30 review for Storm Lake: A Chronicle of Change, Resilience, and Hope from a Heartland Newspaper

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tom Murray

    “Always be kind to any Cullens you meet,” my Grandma Mary McTigue told me, “There are very few of them and they’re probably related to us.” Full disclosure: Grandma Mary was herself a Cullen. Her little brother, Pat Cullen is Art Cullen’s father. My father’s big sister was Eileen (Murray) Cullen, Art’s mother. I was born and raised in Storm Lake, Iowa, and attended church and school with Art. We even played on the same baseball team. The Murray to Cullen to Flowers trinity was the backbone of ou “Always be kind to any Cullens you meet,” my Grandma Mary McTigue told me, “There are very few of them and they’re probably related to us.” Full disclosure: Grandma Mary was herself a Cullen. Her little brother, Pat Cullen is Art Cullen’s father. My father’s big sister was Eileen (Murray) Cullen, Art’s mother. I was born and raised in Storm Lake, Iowa, and attended church and school with Art. We even played on the same baseball team. The Murray to Cullen to Flowers trinity was the backbone of our Little League championship team, the Eagles. Upon the release of “Storm Lake” Art returned to his alma mater, the University of St. Thomas to read select passages. Afterward he was asked about his reaction to winning the Pulitzer Prize. Art confessed that he was surprised. I too was surprised—that Art hadn’t won newspaper’s most prestigious award much earlier, and much more frequently throughout his storied career at the Storm Lake Times. He’s been reading or writing newspapers all of his life. We both learned to read from the newspaper that Iowa depended on, the Des Moines Register. When I moved to Burlington as an 8th grader, Art envied me for being able to now receive the Burlington Hawkeye and absorb the wisdom of that paper’s editor and fellow Pulitzer Prize winner, John McCormally. My favorite editorialists include Garrison Keillor, Maureen Dowd, and Peggy Noonan; all of whom satisfy my craving for a weekly warm fuzzy. You’re never guaranteed a warm fuzzy from Art who I believe is stronger than each of these, America’s greatest writers, all put together. He is the only writer today who can make me laugh, cry, roll my eyes, curse, and cheer him on, all within 900 words. When I’m done reading Art I have to get up, move around, and figure out how to address my conscience which Art has prodded, poked, and skewered. I am a changed man. As our Aunt Josephine use to say, “I’ve been transformed!” That means I have to stop talking about an issue and roll up my sleeves and go to work on that issue. My review of “Storm Lake” will be very similar to a review of the time that I took Art on his first ride of Arnold Park’s classic, roller coaster, The Legend. We were middle schoolers waiting anxiously in line when we were told that there had been a terrible tragedy—a man had just fallen to his death from the roller coaster at it’s highest peak, the Point of No Return. Neither the longstanding rumors that The Legend had been condemned nor a man’s death kept us from continuing to wait in line until the body could be carried away and we could enjoy our own turn on the teeth shaking, near bone breaking ride. On that first ride after the accident we sat in the best seat with the best view, the first car. As we made our slow ascent to the peak, we saw all of Iowa beneath us: our families, an incredible lake, followed by breathtaking ups and downs, where we also saw our entire lives pass before us. Our ride, like the journey that Art takes you on in “Storm Lake,” eventually slowed to a steady crawl at the end, where we thanked God for saving us, and instantly gained the confidence to take on even bigger challenges in the future—at that time to muster the courage for a ride on the Wild Mouse. Today Art prepares us for the challenge of handing off a safer, healthier world to our children. If you’re from Storm Lake, Buena Vista County, northwest Iowa, or any other community in Iowa you need to read this book of the history of our land with the most fertile soil in the world and how we are squandering this precious gift. If you live anywhere else that requires water to drink, bathe, recreate, or nourish the plants or animals that you eat, you for sure need to read this book. “Storm Lake” is so well crafted that readers from Iowa to Ireland to India will recognize all the characters, as well as elected representatives—some courageous, but often despairingly dimwitted. The book’s major themes of climate change, responsible agriculture, water conservation, and immigration are demystified by Art’s chronicle of one mighty small Iowa town newspaper’s common sense, family value approach to making it all work and still play, and most importantly eat together at the end of the day. At a time when newspaper journalism seems to be on the wane, Art leads the way with a blueprint for the critical role journalists must play in enlightening the electorate and ensuring we work these issues out and maintain our democracy. You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. I lucked out with the Cullens. Please read “Storm Lake” and then please buy copies for your elected representatives and demand that they read and follow its lead as well.

  2. 5 out of 5

    David Wineberg

    It’s different being a reporter. You purposely become inquisitive, friendly, nosy, and even annoying. You know more about the town, the neighbors, the politicians, the local celebrities, than anyone else can without being arrested as a pervert of some kind. You can accost people in bars and knock on doors at will. Art Cullen has accumulated decades of this news gathering and distilled it into a book. Storm Lake, where he lives, is in the northwestern quadrant of Iowa. It is a small town, and his It’s different being a reporter. You purposely become inquisitive, friendly, nosy, and even annoying. You know more about the town, the neighbors, the politicians, the local celebrities, than anyone else can without being arrested as a pervert of some kind. You can accost people in bars and knock on doors at will. Art Cullen has accumulated decades of this news gathering and distilled it into a book. Storm Lake, where he lives, is in the northwestern quadrant of Iowa. It is a small town, and his newspaper only has a few thousand readers. He and his older brother John keep it alive, and Storm Lake keeps them going. It transpires that Iowa is no different than the rest of the country. It has long established families, newcomers, immigrants, and kids, some of whom stay for life and some who can’t wait to leave. Cullen has stories of all kinds to go along with the stereotypes. Thumbnail sketches and longer tales all add up to a vibrant and often really “with it” community. They are embarrassed by their elected officials, welcoming to immigrants, and learning to be respectful of the environment, which is particularly hard in Iowa, which is exploiting the land for corn – to the max. He can’t relate to the bitter white people with their centrally airconditioned houses, boats on the lake and jobs for life. They hate immigrants and how they are stealing jobs, money and livelihoods (they claim). But the school district is desperate for them in order to keep enrollments from falling further. They have given the town multinational groceries and restaurants, graduated scientists and administrators who stay to give back, and added new music to the canon. Cullen delights in their presence. There are Sudanese, Laotians and Mexicans in Storm Lake, Iowa. The Mexicans hail from Storm Lake’s twin city in Mexico, which also raises corn and packs meat. They come north to make decent money for doing similar work, and often go home either to enjoy their “wealth” or because the discrimination is too much to waste a life on. Cullen visits the town and is fairly stunned to find all kinds of people there have lived in Storm Lake, speak English and know the town well. He is welcomed everywhere. They appreciate the link to Storm Lake, even if the locals back in Iowa don’t know about the connection. The state’s biggest celebrity currently is Representative Steve King, whose misogyny and hatred rings forth loud and clear nationally. A local embarrassment, he is unseatable because the Democrats won’t make the effort. The mayor won’t talk to the paper, because he claims it is “fake news”. But the Storm Lake Times and Cullen won a Pulitzer Prize in 2017 for its series of editorials and stories on agriculture’s environmental damage and the corruption of county officials in actively hiding barrels of cash to fend off environmental challenges to its stewardship (or lack thereof). Big Ag acts just like Big Tobacco. The lake itself has gone from 17 feet deep to two, thanks to farmers planting right to its edge, running underground streams of perforated tiles to take topsoil quietly into the lake (20 tons per acre during heavy rains) and poisoning everything with pesticides and chemical fertilizers to keep the monoculture yield up. I will not forget a story on the news last year, in which a reporter asked local Iowa farmers about all their topsoil ending up in the Mississippi delta, poisoning the fish and the shrimp and creating a death zone bereft of oxygen, the size of New Jersey. One farmer didn’t even bother leaning out of his pickup, saying “Not my problem.” It’s not all hugs and kisses in Iowa, and Cullen tries to be fair. He is a reporter, not a crusader. He is at his best describing the attempts to understand the problem, deal with the consequences and get farmers to co-operate in saving their own land, which has so little topsoil left the rains take whole corn plants right into the rivers and lakes with it. It’s the most dramatic part of the book. His is a family of ink-stained wretches. They’ve all been bitten by the reporting bug, either helping out to keep the Storm Lake Times going, or running off to found their own papers, stopping to get experience at other papers along the way. It’s a seven day a week job, and simply takes over their lives. But the result is a web of connections well beyond anything Facebook is capable of, a depth of knowledge well beyond Twitter, and respect far more genuine than anything Linked In provides. Storm Lake often seems to be written purely for Iowans. Cullen seems to be trying inculcate a sense of pride and worth in his fellow Iowans, making the point that efforts are worthwhile, that life is better there, and that everyone needs to keep at it. I got confused many times as to whether “we” referred to the staff of the paper or Iowans in general, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. It’s a look at the state of the state which most city dwellers can’t picture accurately. David Wineberg

  3. 5 out of 5

    Hillary Copsey

    I feel a little bad giving this such a low rating, because I did enjoy it. It reminded me of a long talk over coffee with some of the best, old-school newspaper editors and columnists I've worked with. But unless you're from Iowa or have had the work experiences I have had, to fill you with nostalgia, I just don't know that you'll get much from this book. Which is too bad, because Cullen is making some extremely important points about politics and climate change and community. But his style is s I feel a little bad giving this such a low rating, because I did enjoy it. It reminded me of a long talk over coffee with some of the best, old-school newspaper editors and columnists I've worked with. But unless you're from Iowa or have had the work experiences I have had, to fill you with nostalgia, I just don't know that you'll get much from this book. Which is too bad, because Cullen is making some extremely important points about politics and climate change and community. But his style is so meandering, I think most readers either won't stick with it long enough.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dana Stabenow

    I wish there was a book like this one written for every state in the union. Art Cullen writes Pulitzer Prize-winning editorials for the Storm Lake Times in northwest Iowa, where he was born and has lived most of his life. The result is part history lesson, part how-to-run-a-local-biweekly-newspaper primer, part agricultural seminar, part environmental warning shot, and part plain old people watching. I wrote a column...that Denny didn't like, and he suggested nicely that I should rewrite it or no I wish there was a book like this one written for every state in the union. Art Cullen writes Pulitzer Prize-winning editorials for the Storm Lake Times in northwest Iowa, where he was born and has lived most of his life. The result is part history lesson, part how-to-run-a-local-biweekly-newspaper primer, part agricultural seminar, part environmental warning shot, and part plain old people watching. I wrote a column...that Denny didn't like, and he suggested nicely that I should rewrite it or not run it. I argued. He pulled out a pair of scissors and clipped up the story in front of my face. "It's not running," he said. Lesson learned. That's what "publisher" means on the masthead on page 2. and We have always thought we could feed the world, and that notion animates our state's politics. Hence the Iowa first-in-the-nation primary. If you put all these buddies of mine in a room with their weapons, you would have the Nicaraguan army. They have assault rifles, every caliber of handgun, shotguns small and large, and enough ammo to survive the end of the world. And, yes, even a cannon...They are not afraid of Muslim invasions...They are afraid someone will try to take their guns away. Sounds like Alaska. The chapter on Iowa politics, 'A Purple Hybrid,' features a profile of Steve King (he's northwest Iowa's own white supremist US Congressman) and the whole book reminds me of the Fallows' Our Towns. Storm Lake is the larger American community writ small, an amalgamation of the old white guard and immigrants from Mexico and Thailand and Laos and Cambodia that together, most of the time, are figuring it out. As Cullen says, they have to. As do we all.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Steve Peifer

    You are tempted when you are three pages in to declare that a GREAT drinking game would be to have to shotgun every time he mentioned the Pulitzer. He calms down about it after a few chapters, and to be fair, if I won one writing for a twice a week paper in Iowa, I would probably staple it to my forehead. I’m guessing that in Storm Lake, Iowa that Cullen is a big deal and people care about his musings. So he wrote this assuming you would be fascinated, instead of trying to earn your interest. I You are tempted when you are three pages in to declare that a GREAT drinking game would be to have to shotgun every time he mentioned the Pulitzer. He calms down about it after a few chapters, and to be fair, if I won one writing for a twice a week paper in Iowa, I would probably staple it to my forehead. I’m guessing that in Storm Lake, Iowa that Cullen is a big deal and people care about his musings. So he wrote this assuming you would be fascinated, instead of trying to earn your interest. I almost never give up on a book, but Cullen telling me his life story almost made me bail. There were some good things that were worth hanging around for, and it’s always fantastic that a good journalist has to become a minor expert on what they cover, so his take on agriculture and the state of community journalism is spot on and fun to read. But this book was like seeing a concert by a band who have a couple great songs but don’t understand pacing and song placement and have to talk before every song. They put their best songs in the middle of the show, so the music never builds to something great. In the same way, the book takes off when he starts writing about the big agricultural business pollution issues, but it is given rather short shrift and by the time he wraps it up, there is a good quarter of the book left to slog through. It needed an editor in the worst way but my guess is that no one tells Cullen anything about writing; he won the Pulitzer after all. It’s a shame; he got in the way of his own story.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Pat Rolston

    I first heard of Art Cullen when his work was published in a New York Times editorial. I later learned he won a Pulitzer Prize and was part owner and founder of the Storm Lake Times. I was stunned to discover this having lived in Storm Lake as a youth. I lived there at a magical time of life from the age of 7 to 15 and in a magical place. No one locked their doors and a bicycle allowed access to anywhere in the entire town within 15 minutes. Let this serve as a disclaimer for a generous score of I first heard of Art Cullen when his work was published in a New York Times editorial. I later learned he won a Pulitzer Prize and was part owner and founder of the Storm Lake Times. I was stunned to discover this having lived in Storm Lake as a youth. I lived there at a magical time of life from the age of 7 to 15 and in a magical place. No one locked their doors and a bicycle allowed access to anywhere in the entire town within 15 minutes. Let this serve as a disclaimer for a generous score of 5 when a solid 4 would be more in line for someone not having the hometown connection. Art Cullen is a wonderful writer and absolutely essential cog in the machinery of our Republic. His community first journalistic approach and dogged investigative journalistic activity are the gold standard for a free press and essential for a functioning democracy. The tragedy of the decline of the investigative journalist as a result of predatory greed by self serving conglomerates metastasizes as endemic corruption in our politics and broader society. Art Cullen and his brother’s story founding the Storm Lake Times is inspiring and incredible. They are producing world class investigative journalism and serving a community of 15,000 where 30 languages are spoken. Storm Lake is one of the largest processors of poultry and pork in the world. Art captures the drama, hope, and challenges of integrating Humong, Mexican, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Guatemalan, and numerous other nationalities into the penultimate melting pot that is Storm Lake, Iowa. I absolutely can’t recommend highly enough this book and wonderful author to allow the reader a deeper understanding of a small place so critical to the heart and soul of America. I will subscribe to his paper as a result of his book to keep the dream alive.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia Paschen

    Wow. This is a beauty of a book, and a real love letter to rural Iowa, warts and all. I read an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for my review on Goodreads. Full disclosure: my husband John and I spent time with Art in 2017 and 2018 while John ran for the Democratic nomination for Congress. John did not win the three-way Democratic primary in June of this year. He did, however, earn the endorsement of Art Cullen and the Storm Lake Times during the primary. We consider Art and John Wow. This is a beauty of a book, and a real love letter to rural Iowa, warts and all. I read an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for my review on Goodreads. Full disclosure: my husband John and I spent time with Art in 2017 and 2018 while John ran for the Democratic nomination for Congress. John did not win the three-way Democratic primary in June of this year. He did, however, earn the endorsement of Art Cullen and the Storm Lake Times during the primary. We consider Art and John and Tom Cullen friends, so this review comes loaded down with bias. My journalism training came from the wonderful professors at Iowa State University, a land grant university where I met open-minded professors willing to take a chance on a girl from Ames. Art Cullen appears to have had similar good fortune in his career, and has found joy in his work and in his marriage to the wonderful, talented Dolores. I will always love Iowa. I will never stop asking questions. My Catholic faith has shaped who I am. I love newspapers, good reporting and politics. In many ways, Art Cullen and I were cut from the same cloth. We also have that ability to drive those who care for us crazy. I guess it is part of our charm. Thanks Art Cullen and everyone who makes the Storm Lake Times one of the best newspapers in the country. I tried to get an online subscription, but your web site has too many hoops to jump through. I will probably end up getting the newspaper mailed to me in Ames, I enjoy it so much. See you real soon, Storm Lake. You make us proud to be Iowans.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bernadette

    Art Cullen, editor of The Storm Lake Times, in Storm Lake, IA, has written what I hope will become a classic case study for future journalists. For decades, Cullen and his immediate family have worked their tails off to foster the goal of their newspaper to build "a community and not an unrelated gathering of people." This may surprise some east and west coast folks, aren't all Iowa small towns the same -- quaint, quiet happy places? It would only take a few issues of the twice-a-week Times to s Art Cullen, editor of The Storm Lake Times, in Storm Lake, IA, has written what I hope will become a classic case study for future journalists. For decades, Cullen and his immediate family have worked their tails off to foster the goal of their newspaper to build "a community and not an unrelated gathering of people." This may surprise some east and west coast folks, aren't all Iowa small towns the same -- quaint, quiet happy places? It would only take a few issues of the twice-a-week Times to show you otherwise. Storm Lake has diverse, multicultural families to employ, house and educate, water pollution problems, lack of affordable health care, loss of small businesses due to big box chains, and loss of surrounding farm land viability. But Storm Lake and Buena Vista County also have a force of nature in Art Cullen whose determination, persuasive writing skills, willingness to take on the powerful agri-business and political groups have provided positive leadership in this northwest Iowa farm town. Cullen won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for his editorials and the paper's reporting on a lawsuit (secretly funded by agri-business mega firms) over who was responsible for clean up of agricultural runoff that was polluting the river and lakes. Cullen's command of facts and ability to give an overview of Iowa politics that relate to local issues make his voice credible, a quality that is key to journalistic success. One of themes of the book is Cullen's plea for taking better care of the land, with more sustainable crop, livestock and soil conservation practices, as well as less use of water for food growth and processing. He writes beautifully of the geologic history of Iowa and the indigenous people who knew the importance of allowing prairie grasses to hold water and let some land rest. Along with the big issues, Cullen is just as gifted writing with heart and soul about Storm Lake residents. In a chapter, A Place to Call Home, he tells us of the hopes and dreams of Topiz from Mexico, who runs the Better Day Cafe, and two vegetable sellers from Thailand Mang Ziong and Nhia Yang, as well as many others, some of whom have lived in the area for generations. When I first heard of this book, I expected it to be primarily about the lawsuit reporting and how the Times won the Pulitzer. This achievement is almost a minor part of the book; rather Cullen has opened his heart to write a memoir of his life and love for a place on the planet called Storm Lake. Superb read!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    Each chapter in Storm Lake could easily provoke a great discussion. It might be about the struggles of a small town newspaper, the plight of agriculture, the stories of immigrants living in rural Iowa, local politics' place in the bigger state and national scene or the joy of winning a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Storm Lake tells so much the community of Storm Lake in Buena Vista County. The town with its population of 15,000 relies heavily on employment at the local packing plant. Lik Each chapter in Storm Lake could easily provoke a great discussion. It might be about the struggles of a small town newspaper, the plight of agriculture, the stories of immigrants living in rural Iowa, local politics' place in the bigger state and national scene or the joy of winning a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Storm Lake tells so much the community of Storm Lake in Buena Vista County. The town with its population of 15,000 relies heavily on employment at the local packing plant. Like so many other communities with this kind of industry, immigrants have provided a good share of the work force. That in turn has lead to challenges for housing, the school system, law enforcement, the local college and just how people get along in general. The town has met many of the challenges and certainly doesn't have it all solved, but they work on it as best they can in part due to the leadership provided by the local newspaper, the Storm Lake Times. I still need to mention the reason for the Pulitzer; Art Cullen wrote editorials pushing for transparency in a lawsuit over the safety of drinking water and who actually paid for the defense of the three counties who were sued. The challenges go on beyond the book of course. Author Cullen, the recipient of the Pulitzer, is sometimes in the national media; recently he wrote about the delay and lack of Covid 19 testing at the packing plant. State politics didn't put a priority on testing the workforce because of who the workers are. This is definitely a timely read that allows one to pursue more from Art Cullen. He is still out there trying to write the truth in the best journalistic fashion along with his reporter son Tom, brother John who is the publisher and wife Dolores who takes photos. An excellent book for these times.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jim Mullin

    An excellent read describing how a the editor of a small Iowa town newspaper was awarded the Noble prize for describing the horrific agricultural practices placed on Iowa farmers by big business. These practices have resulted into major damages to Iowa agricultural soils. A must read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Urbandale Library

    Published in 2018, Storm Lake was written by Art Cullen of the Storm Lake Times which won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for editorials taking on the big agricultural industry over its pollution of Iowa’s water. Many topics impacting rural Iowa are discussed in the book including but not limited to big agriculture, family farming, water pollution, land use and immigration. This book would be particularly appealing to anyone who enjoys investigative journalism or someone who farms or who has a tradition Published in 2018, Storm Lake was written by Art Cullen of the Storm Lake Times which won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for editorials taking on the big agricultural industry over its pollution of Iowa’s water. Many topics impacting rural Iowa are discussed in the book including but not limited to big agriculture, family farming, water pollution, land use and immigration. This book would be particularly appealing to anyone who enjoys investigative journalism or someone who farms or who has a tradition of farming in their family.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sarah White

    Storm Lake is a little town that has done a lot right. It has welcomed waves of immigrants, embraced their traditions and adapted to changes in the agricultural industry. Along the way they’ve made mistakes and are trying to deal with the environmental damage thanks in part to a strong local press. Newspapers are essential to vibrant small towns. Without them, no one else will pay attention to the city council or the school board or anything else that’s happening unless it’s murder or a city offi Storm Lake is a little town that has done a lot right. It has welcomed waves of immigrants, embraced their traditions and adapted to changes in the agricultural industry. Along the way they’ve made mistakes and are trying to deal with the environmental damage thanks in part to a strong local press. Newspapers are essential to vibrant small towns. Without them, no one else will pay attention to the city council or the school board or anything else that’s happening unless it’s murder or a city official getting arrested. This book will make you feel good about newspapering (and I’ll admit when they won the Pulitzer I might have cried a little bit). The future needs more people like Art Cullen and all the reporters and staff at the Storm Lake Times.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    I really enjoyed the town history and people's stories that were portrayed in the book. Excellent writing kept the flow of the book moving, similar to the pace of individual human lives changing and moving on constantly while somehow staying the same personalitywise. I really enjoyed the town history and people's stories that were portrayed in the book. Excellent writing kept the flow of the book moving, similar to the pace of individual human lives changing and moving on constantly while somehow staying the same personalitywise.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Vicki

    Every Iowan should read this book. So much history (no, Amana is not the home of the Amish but otherwise pretty much right one) and insight. Sincerity and wisdom.

  15. 4 out of 5

    dpd

    Art Cullen has been afflicting the comfortable for more than 30 years. I know because I’ve been reading his editorials in the Storm Lake Times since volume 1 number 1. “Storm Lake: A Chronicle of Change, Resilience, and Hope from a Heartland Newspaper” is Cullen’s first book, a book he wrote after winning the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. If you’re wondering if this book is for you, let me give you a list of audiences who should be reading “Storm Lake.” This book is for you if: * You Art Cullen has been afflicting the comfortable for more than 30 years. I know because I’ve been reading his editorials in the Storm Lake Times since volume 1 number 1. “Storm Lake: A Chronicle of Change, Resilience, and Hope from a Heartland Newspaper” is Cullen’s first book, a book he wrote after winning the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. If you’re wondering if this book is for you, let me give you a list of audiences who should be reading “Storm Lake.” This book is for you if: * You care about the water you drink, the food you eat, and the planet you inhabit. * You care about corporate influence on your life and the lives of your family, friends and neighbors. * You care about immigration. * You want to hear about a small town that has been transformed by the influx of new residents from all over the world. * You love really good writing....not formulaic writing, but writing that will remind you of the stylized writing of some of the great writers like Twain and Keillor. * You love a good story well told. * You care about family and like reading about others and their family stories. * You love to pull for the underdog. * You care about good journalism and you don’t think that the news media are the “enemy of the people.” Cullen’s book is a gift to America, a gift that will inform you, entertain you, and pull at your heartstrings. If you are afflicted, it will comfort you. Buy it. Read it. Tell your friends about it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Ewald

    This book is a love letter to Iowa, specifically, small town Iowa, Storm Lake in the north western part of Iowa. Most of us love Iowa, only in the rear view mirror as we leave it and really give it little thought, but it is home to small town farmers, and large conglomerate farmers (sadly, who have taken over), meatpacking houses and their immigrant employees, not only from Mexico, but Myanmar, Thailand and others who take a chance coming so far seeking a better life. Storm Lake has embraced the This book is a love letter to Iowa, specifically, small town Iowa, Storm Lake in the north western part of Iowa. Most of us love Iowa, only in the rear view mirror as we leave it and really give it little thought, but it is home to small town farmers, and large conglomerate farmers (sadly, who have taken over), meatpacking houses and their immigrant employees, not only from Mexico, but Myanmar, Thailand and others who take a chance coming so far seeking a better life. Storm Lake has embraced them and the diversity they bring to the community. Iowa is not without its problems, but without town newspapers to ask questions on both the local and state level, there is no hope for improvement in the status quo. I understand now why the presidential candidates for either party spend time in Iowa (I found the chapter on politics in Iowa especially difficult to read knowing how they favored Trump and stories of Steve King and his promotion of nationalism made me angry). Don't write off Iowa, their small town values echo values everywhere in our country.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I was so happy to revisit my home state and so glad that an Iowa native, who's edited his town's newspaper for over 20 years won the Pulitzer Prize for tackling the elephant in the room - Big Ag's role in Iowa (and national) politics. This was a great primer on what makes Storm Lake so special, for those who've never been there (my roots are on the eastern side of the state, so I'm included in this), that helps ground where his Pulitzer winning editorials came from. Cullen showcases the best Iow I was so happy to revisit my home state and so glad that an Iowa native, who's edited his town's newspaper for over 20 years won the Pulitzer Prize for tackling the elephant in the room - Big Ag's role in Iowa (and national) politics. This was a great primer on what makes Storm Lake so special, for those who've never been there (my roots are on the eastern side of the state, so I'm included in this), that helps ground where his Pulitzer winning editorials came from. Cullen showcases the best Iowa has to offer while not shying away from its troubles. As a member of a family where both sides have farmed (and continue to farm) in Iowa for at least five generations, my reactions were too personal to get into much detail evaluating this one. I'll just say that I wish the Cullens, The Storm Lake Times, and the town of Storm Lake only the best.

  18. 5 out of 5

    William Cooper

    As someone who has lived in Iowa for 10+ years and never really got a sense that I understood the culture of the place, this book felt like a revelation. Art writes in that particular way of the local newspaper columnist: sharp, unpretentious and distinctively provincial. Often it feels like our consciousness has been warped by the pulling of our attention towards the national media. This book is a testament to the spirit of the Iowa farmer to stand firm and drag that focus back to the ground un As someone who has lived in Iowa for 10+ years and never really got a sense that I understood the culture of the place, this book felt like a revelation. Art writes in that particular way of the local newspaper columnist: sharp, unpretentious and distinctively provincial. Often it feels like our consciousness has been warped by the pulling of our attention towards the national media. This book is a testament to the spirit of the Iowa farmer to stand firm and drag that focus back to the ground underneath his or her own own feet, one hilarious turn of phrase, one slice of homespun profundity, or one perspective changing article at a time. Maybe my biggest endorsement for this book was that my first act upon finishing it was to walk out my front door and buy a real ink and pulp newspaper covering what’s happening right around me. You should consider doing it too.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Teresa Lawler

    I consider Storm Lake my hometown having grown up there from third through eighth grade (1970-1976). Many of the early references to St. Mary's (my church, but not my school since I was a "public school kid"), the lake, the college, and the people are part of my story. Cullen's call to action to embrace immigrates makes me proud to be from Storm Lake. Too many people think of Northwest Iowa and think of the horrendous congressman called King. Those of us that call parts of Northwest Iowa home or I consider Storm Lake my hometown having grown up there from third through eighth grade (1970-1976). Many of the early references to St. Mary's (my church, but not my school since I was a "public school kid"), the lake, the college, and the people are part of my story. Cullen's call to action to embrace immigrates makes me proud to be from Storm Lake. Too many people think of Northwest Iowa and think of the horrendous congressman called King. Those of us that call parts of Northwest Iowa home or a hometown, know he does not represent the heart of the heartland. If you are from Iowa, read this book. If you are from the United States, read this book. If you care about the future of journalism, small towns, and your fellow humans, read this book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Krissy

    You should read this book if: You’ve ever lived in Iowa You care about our land and water You care about immigration You care about communities and “regular people” You care about honest journalism And if you don’t care about those things, you should really read this book! So many quotable lines. It’s a book to be read slowly and taken in thoughtfully. There were many times that I had to set it down and stare at the wall for a few minutes to let his words sink in. Let this book sink in for you! A bea You should read this book if: You’ve ever lived in Iowa You care about our land and water You care about immigration You care about communities and “regular people” You care about honest journalism And if you don’t care about those things, you should really read this book! So many quotable lines. It’s a book to be read slowly and taken in thoughtfully. There were many times that I had to set it down and stare at the wall for a few minutes to let his words sink in. Let this book sink in for you! A beautiful, powerful voice, with some messages that might be difficult to hear. A writer well-deserving of the Pulitzer he helped earn for his hometown newspaper for standing up to big corporations who put profit over everything else.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Glenn

    The author has some good information and thoughts on rural America and the changes it has seen and continues to see. Storm Lake is certainly heavily involved in such changes. And it sounds like that have shown themselves to be open to making it work. My difficulty with the book was with a lack of focus. Some of the best material is just lost in the middle and, at then end, the story just wanders away. Art has some great skills and I applaud he and his brother (and the rest of the family) for bri The author has some good information and thoughts on rural America and the changes it has seen and continues to see. Storm Lake is certainly heavily involved in such changes. And it sounds like that have shown themselves to be open to making it work. My difficulty with the book was with a lack of focus. Some of the best material is just lost in the middle and, at then end, the story just wanders away. Art has some great skills and I applaud he and his brother (and the rest of the family) for bringing out the issues. But unless you are familiar with a newspaper, does understanding how a press works and the things that can go wrong help us dig deep.

  22. 4 out of 5

    David Kirchman

    This book should be read by all concerned about small town America, the environment, and the on-going struggles of newspapers in this country. The book wouldn't have been written if the author hadn't won a Pulitzer prize for editorials in his newspaper, Storm Lake Times, published in a small town in Iowa. Although one part of one chapter describes the morning Cullen finds out he won the prize, the book is much, much more than that. Part memoir, part commentary on current and past politics, mostl This book should be read by all concerned about small town America, the environment, and the on-going struggles of newspapers in this country. The book wouldn't have been written if the author hadn't won a Pulitzer prize for editorials in his newspaper, Storm Lake Times, published in a small town in Iowa. Although one part of one chapter describes the morning Cullen finds out he won the prize, the book is much, much more than that. Part memoir, part commentary on current and past politics, mostly about living in small town Iowa (with reflections on the entire country), the prose is always lean and often poetic: the best of the Midwest.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Peggy

    This is a low-profile book I wouldn’t know about except for my friends in my CSA farm community. Written by the editor of a small-town newspaper who won the Pulitzer Prize, it examines everything from small-town newspapering to agribusiness bullshit and the politics that allow the huge corporations to dictate farming practices that are destroying the best farmland in America. It’s very good if given to rhetorical flights now and then. Some strange interludes here and there that don’t quite fit b This is a low-profile book I wouldn’t know about except for my friends in my CSA farm community. Written by the editor of a small-town newspaper who won the Pulitzer Prize, it examines everything from small-town newspapering to agribusiness bullshit and the politics that allow the huge corporations to dictate farming practices that are destroying the best farmland in America. It’s very good if given to rhetorical flights now and then. Some strange interludes here and there that don’t quite fit but overall definitely worth the read. The fact that a WaPo writer I deeply respect (Dan Balz) recommends it is a nice plus.

  24. 4 out of 5

    K

    A necessary read if you want to understand the fly over states. We are ceasing to be homogeneously white, homogeneously small family farms. We are diversifying even while our farms become owned by smaller and smaller numbers of people and the processes become more vertical. Art Cullen brings all this to vivid life in his book that gives character to that patchwork quilt of land that you see from the window of your plane. You may think what happens here has nothing to do with you on the coast but A necessary read if you want to understand the fly over states. We are ceasing to be homogeneously white, homogeneously small family farms. We are diversifying even while our farms become owned by smaller and smaller numbers of people and the processes become more vertical. Art Cullen brings all this to vivid life in his book that gives character to that patchwork quilt of land that you see from the window of your plane. You may think what happens here has nothing to do with you on the coast but you are as much a part of the system that all of us in the heartland are beholden to.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Carolien

    I normally get my news from mainstream newspapers - NYT, FT, the Post, etc that don't cover rural America well and middle-America is therefore a bit of a mystery to those of us on other continents. This book deepened my understanding of certain big themes - agriculture, politics, immigration and provided much needed context to those topics as covered by the big papers. Some of the chapters are better structured, while other meander a bit, but overall I enjoyed this very much. And I am able to ad I normally get my news from mainstream newspapers - NYT, FT, the Post, etc that don't cover rural America well and middle-America is therefore a bit of a mystery to those of us on other continents. This book deepened my understanding of certain big themes - agriculture, politics, immigration and provided much needed context to those topics as covered by the big papers. Some of the chapters are better structured, while other meander a bit, but overall I enjoyed this very much. And I am able to add a trusted newspaper that provides a different context to my weekly news consumption.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Diane Thayer

    This book was recommended, and loaned, to me but I have to admit, I resisted reading it - "not my type of literature." Instead, I found a highly readable book that explains why Iowa, and much of the nation, is the way it is in today's social and political climate. Storm Lake is a delightful mix of anecdote, memoir and journalistic reporting (Cullen is a Pulitzer Prize winner) that is, quite simply, the most worthwhile non-fiction book I have read in a long time. If you are from Iowa, you owe it to This book was recommended, and loaned, to me but I have to admit, I resisted reading it - "not my type of literature." Instead, I found a highly readable book that explains why Iowa, and much of the nation, is the way it is in today's social and political climate. Storm Lake is a delightful mix of anecdote, memoir and journalistic reporting (Cullen is a Pulitzer Prize winner) that is, quite simply, the most worthwhile non-fiction book I have read in a long time. If you are from Iowa, you owe it to yourself to read this.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    Just okay. In parts of the book, he seemed like he was trying to hard to be okay with immigrants coming to his part of the state. I am sure this book will have mass appeal in Storm Lake, Iowa, and the surrounding region. It was just a tad long-winded. Mr. Cullen has an interesting story to tell but I found myself skimming and got bored with it. I had such high hopes for this book too. I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    You don't have to be an Iowan to appreciate the musings of this small town newspaper man (and Pulitzer Prize winner). In describing his journey he provides insight into all he has and continues to cover--native history, immigration, agribusiness vs. sustainable farming, water and land conservation, politics--local, national and global and climate change. All this from the view in northcentral Iowa. You don't have to be an Iowan to appreciate the musings of this small town newspaper man (and Pulitzer Prize winner). In describing his journey he provides insight into all he has and continues to cover--native history, immigration, agribusiness vs. sustainable farming, water and land conservation, politics--local, national and global and climate change. All this from the view in northcentral Iowa.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Farabaugh

    I thought that this paper was going to be a chronicle of the story that led this paper to winning the Pulitzer prize but that only gets brief mention. It is instead an overview of life in Iowa. It is interesting at times but also lacks focus and sometimes the prose that would have worked well in a newspaper column fails a bit in a book. Overall it was interesting enough to keep my attention and the author had some interesting things to say.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Murray

    Like many other reviewers, I first must admit that I am related to the author. Nevertheless, I learned quite alot about the often self-negating effort required to start and run any business. Running a small-town newspaper is, it turns out, no less fraught than being a farmer or anyone else struggling for survival doing something they love. The writing is not poetic, but the workman-like style may be in keeping with the place, time and subject.

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