Meet the Cullens — Iowa’s most impressive journalism family. For more than 30 years, Art Cullen, brother John, son Tom, wife Delores and sister-in-law Mary — plus Art’s dog, Peach the newshound — have published The Storm Lake Times, a small-town, twice-weekly newspaper that covers critically important local issues and serves as the glue that holds the community together.
On a shoestring budget for 3,000 readers, Art Cullen unearths a conspiracy between Big Agriculture and City Hall that wins his biting editorials on the scandal a 2017 Pulitzer Prize. While he writes about the impact of climate change on Storm Lake’s ecology, his 27-year-old son, Tom, reports on a City Hall election upset, his wife Dolores churns out human interest stories, and his brother John covers a dangerous intersection with one-too-many accidents. Twice a week, come hell or high water, they work as civic watchdogs to protect their beloved hometown and the legacy of credible local journalism at large.
But, against the backdrop of a collapsing journalism ecosystem and a crushing pandemic, how can the paper avoid the fate of so many other newspapers? In Beth Levison and Jerry Risius’s charming yet cautionary documentary, we see the Cullens’ hard at work, occasionally sniping at each other, as they meet the moment, one deadline at a time. As Art says, “Without strong local journalism to tell a community’s story, the fabric of the place becomes frayed.”
This paper means a fighting chance for their beloved hometown, and by hook or by crook, they’ll make the most of it. There’s simply too much at stake.
“Astutely observed… an engrossing account of a family business run with integrity and passion. It also doubles as restorative proof that, even in these divided times, respectful co-existence can still outweigh opposing political views. ~ The Hollywood Reporter
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