Supporting local journalism is a strong message conveyed in the documentary film “Storm Lake.”
A special showing at Plaza 9 Fridley Theater on Wednesday showed a crowd of people about challenges the newspaper industry is facing, and what a critical role that industry plays in maintaining American democracy.
The film primarily focuses on Art Cullen, the editor of the Storm Lake Times newspaper and 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner. His son, Tom Cullen, who is a reporter for the paper, made a special appearance and answered questions after the credits finished rolling. With Cullen was Bob Leonard, an occasional writer for the New York Times and the Des Moines Register.
It was the fifth time Cullen attended a showing of the movie.
“I think everybody at the newspaper staff said, I believe I can speak for all of them here, is how well they documented the intricacies of newspaper production,” he said. “It really is a team effort. Being in the newspaper industry for seven years, it is difficult for me to step back and appreciate the relationships I’ve made over since coming back to Storm Lake.”
An audience member asked what Art thought of the film. Leonard told the crowd the filmmakers told him Art wept the first time he saw it. Cullen agreed, saying the first showing was in Vermont and Art was emotional throughout.
Another strong theme throughout the film was immigration, especially since the immigrant population is strong in Storm Lake. Cullen said without the immigrants, the population of Storm Lake would be greatly decreased – not only in numbers but also in culture. There are some Latin restaurants, which he said were great, and even a Micronesia Night Club.
One audience member commented she saw strong correlations between Storm Lake, Worthington, Minn. and finally Marshalltown because of the strong immigrant population. She said the similarity is why she attended the showing.
Another member of the audience asked Cullen what he is planning for his own future. He told her he wants to provide stability for the Storm Lake Times by staying with the news desk.
“I wouldn’t want to imagine what it would be like if I were to leave,” Cullen said. “I’ve considered it before, I will admit it. What kept me there every time is the instability it would cause.”
A question was asked if Cullen had challenges in obtaining information from the state government. He said the Storm Lake Times has never had as big of a problem with that as it does now. He encouraged everyone to look up the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, and said the organization is considering what to do about the Gov. Kim Reynolds administration and the attempts to not satisfy open records requests.
After all of the questions were asked, Cullen and Leonard were thanked for their time. Mayor Joel Greer was the first one to shake Cullen’s hand after the presentation.
Contact Lana Bradstream at 641-753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.