Storm Lake, Iowa, has seen its fair share of changes in the 40 years since Big Agriculture came to town. Corporate, political, and environmental forces—and even a global pandemic—threaten to overwhelm the already precarious existence of those in Storm Lake.
Enter: 63-year-old Art Cullen, an old-school journalist who has dedicated his life to his family’s biweekly newspaper The Storm Lake Times. In 2017, Art challenges powerful corporate interests and local county officials about the pollution of local waterways that wins him a Pulitzer.
Nearly 2,000 local papers have shuttered in the last 20 years, a crisis accelerated by COVID-19. The stakes have been especially high for the Cullen family; they comprise half The Times’ 10-person team. Against tight deadlines and slimmer margins, the Cullens doggedly report on their town.
By 2020, things start to take a dire turn. In May, Storm Lake becomes the COVID-19 epicenter in the state. And yet, the need for The Times is more vital than ever as credible journalism is under siege and democracy hangs by a thread. Despite the setbacks, the financial losses, and even quarantine, the Cullens continue to deliver the news. There’s simply too much at stake not to.