As always, the New York Times and the Washington Post and the other big boys hauled in their share of Pulitzer Prizes when they were announced on Monday. If you look at the list of winners, you will see a lot of serious 50-something white guys wearing ties and sport coats trying their best to look like award-winning journalists. But if you look closely, you will also see this guy.
His name is Art Cullen, and he just won a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. He owns the 3,000-circulation Storm Lake Times in Northeastern Iowa along with his brother, John. Wife Delores is the photographer and his son, Tom, is the reporter. Think you can’t do great work with a Spartan staff and a family newspaper?
Cullen won because he has the audacity to call a spade a spade, or if you are in that part of Iowa, to call agri-business what it is.
Anyone with eyes and a nose knows in his gut that Iowa has the dirtiest surface water in America. It is choking the waterworks and the Gulf of Mexico. … Anyone living in Buena Vista County can see it. Even a county supervisor could, if he weren’t so afraid of agri-industry. Just drive over the Raccoon River. Someday, the politics will catch up to the people. …
Cullen calls out the Farm Bureau, which literally bought and paid for his county by paying legal bills to defend its support of an agricultural business group. He hammered away at local elected officials who he said were purposely ignorant of who was calling the shots in his county. He called out the Koch brothers and Monsanto because they were benefiting from poisoning his environment.
Cullen is an old-school journalist who sees his job as twisting the thorn in the side of the overly comfortable every day. No, not everyone in Storm Lake, Iowa, is celebrating his big victory today. I’m sure some in his community can’t stand him. I bet some advertisers have pulled their money out of the Storm Lake Times through the years.
But let Cullen be a model to the rest of us. We are paid to be learned and courageous. We come to work every day to speak for the little guy. We earn a living reading up on arcane government BS that is bilking us of our money and the world we inherited.
I vow to be a little more like Art Cullen this year. If you join me you won’t make a lot of friends in town and you probably won’t win a Pulitzer. But you will earn an honest living.