Storm Lake Reminds of the Importance of Local Press Amid News Deserts
Not along ago, sitting at a stop sign, I noticed a newsstand I often stopped by was shut down. It’s not an uncommon scene. In the past 15 years, one in four newspapers have shuttered in the US. With a circulation of almost 3,000 readers this twice-a-week paper, the Storm Lake Times, is one of the last of its kind. People don’t support journalism they way they used to. The whole professionis becoming a wasteland full of news desers with 20-30,000 towns across american without a local news source.
I remember being sent to the Mom and Pop corner store on Sundays (or sometimes even on a Saturday) to grab the weekly editon, which was almost as thick as the phone book. Remember those? Now, you would be hard pressed to barely find a paper at your local 7-11.
Storm Lake, directed by Jerry Risius and Beth Levison chronicles the eveolution and shifting of a family run newspaper by 63-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner Art Cullen and their struggle to stay afloat amidst digital media and a pandemic.
During the previous administration, painstaking steps were taken to minimize the voice and presence of the media. It has been the voice and/or words or respected journalists like Cullen, all over the country, that Americans could always count on give them the facts. It’s that type of reporting that resulted in blowing the lid off of Watergate, Bill Clinton’s marital indiscretions and even Trump’s continuous clown car shenanigans during his four year tenure as Commander-In-Chief. Nowadays, most get their news from Twitter, Facebook or TMZ. Despite all that, there is still a vital need for local press . Especially during an election, when candidates march into towns like Storm Lake canvassing for votes. It’s the local press that blew the whistle on the Tyson plant, when 246 of their employees tested positive for Coronavirus.
This doc is vital, as it reminds us all not to become comfortable or complacent when it comes to searching for the truth or supporting local businesses. By the end of 2020, The Storm Lake Times launched a Go Fund Me campagn that nabbed 108 more subscibers and their new website http://www.stormlake.com is averaging 1.2 miillion page views a month. They also joined forces with two other family run papers – La Prensa and The Carroll Times Herald to form the Western Iowa Journalism Foundation in order to secure the future of local news in their communities.
That news is encourging, considering 65 million Americans live in countless news deserts with only one local newspaper or none at all. As a digital media journalist, I understand and have benefiited from reporting primarily online. But, there is nothing like the feel or smell of a freshly printed paper or the elbow grease that goes behind it.
Storm Lake will be released into select theatres in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri and Michigan starting September 17th, a run planned for Washington, D.C. in October and New York and Los Angeles in November. It’s a viral must see!