Son of Pulitzer winner coming to UNI

Tom+Cullen+works+for+the+Storm+Lake+Times%2C+which+won+a+Pulitzer+Prize+for+editorials+regarding+the+Des+Moines+Waterworks+case.
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Son of Pulitzer winner coming to UNI

Tom Cullen works for the Storm Lake Times, which won a Pulitzer Prize for editorials regarding the Des Moines Waterworks case.

Tom Cullen works for the Storm Lake Times, which won a Pulitzer Prize for editorials regarding the Des Moines Waterworks case.

Courtesy Photo

Tom Cullen works for the Storm Lake Times, which won a Pulitzer Prize for editorials regarding the Des Moines Waterworks case.

Courtesy Photo

Courtesy Photo

Tom Cullen works for the Storm Lake Times, which won a Pulitzer Prize for editorials regarding the Des Moines Waterworks case.

AMELIA DUAX, Staff Writer

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On Thursday, Sept. 7 at 7:30 p.m. in Sabin Hall, UNI alumnus Tom Cullen will be speaking about how the Storm Lake Times won a Pulitzer Prize in April 2017. The prize was given to the Storm Lake Times in recognition of their reporting on the Des Moines Waterworks lawsuit.

Chris Martin, professor of communication studies, and Kamyar Enshayan, the director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Education (CEEE), were able to give more information on what Thursday’s lecture will cover.

According to Martin, the lecture was planned as part of a bigger program that is working on in conjunction with the CEEE. Martin is currently the director of science and media at the CEEE, and he said that he is interested in how the news media covers scientific issues such as water pollution.

“Tom Cullen and the Storm Lake Times are a really good example of how the news media can cover scientific issues,” Martin said. “We’re really proud of the fact that they won a Pulitzer. It’s like a big win for them, and maybe for the whole state of Iowa.”

Martin also said he was pleased that Tom Cullen is a UNI alumnus, which was another great reason for having Cullen come to UNI to give his lecture. As for the Pulitzer win, Martin said he was glad to see a small-town newspaper do exceptional reporting and write great editorials.

“The ten editorials that were part of its Pulitzer package are really phenomenal and really tell the whole story of Iowa’s problem with dirty groundwater and also the difficulty Iowa’s had politically in getting it cleaned up,” Martin said. “I’m a big advocate for journalism, and I think this is a wonderful time to be doing journalism. The industry is certainly going through some difficult times in terms of figuring out how to monetize journalism.”

Kamyar Enshayan was also proud to see the efforts of Tom Cullen help win a Pulitzer Prize.

“It’s great to see the good work of paying attention to and addressing local matters are rewarded,” Enshayan said. “Free press is the fourth branch of self-governance, and we all need to pay attention and expect good journalism.”

Martin said that in terms of the tools used nowadays for journalism, it’s an exciting time for journalism nationally, as well as locally.

“Journalism is so important in small towns in Iowa,” Martin said. “Often times for the local newspapers, it’s the only medium that reaches those people and speaks directly about their lives. In a bigger city, there’s all kinds of outlets, but in a town like Storm Lake the newspapers are really important because it’s the one medium that really speaks to the issues in that community.”

According to Enshayan, small town newspapers play an important part in helping Iowans better understand what is happening locally.

“There is a huge role all papers have in Iowa to help Iowans realize what is going on here, who is who, who is pooping in our drinking water, who is shaping our future, what are some great possibilities in Iowa, how to strengthen democracy in our state and what is our responsibility to our state, to our county and to our towns?” Enshayan said. “There are so many stories, so much work to do right here.”

Martin noted that the local newspapers are doing well because of the lack of digital competition that big city newspapers deal with.

“Storm Lake is kind of an interesting city because it’s not very large, yet it has two competing newspapers,” Martin said. “There’s not a lot of big cities that have that.

“Tom Cullen is really an inspiration for young reporters. He’s only in his mid-twenties, yet he’s already done the reporting that a Pulitzer Prize was based on. It shows what you can do just a few years after graduating from a place like UNI. You can do some really significant work.”

Tom Cullen’s lecture, while primarily focused on science and the media, will also serve as a way for aspiring reporters to see what career pathways UNI can offer. Cullen’s lecture will be a part of a “Sustainability Lecture Series,” which will continue from Sept. 7 through October.

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