Cullen did reporting behind the Storm Lake Times’ Pulitzer Prize-Winning Editorials

Tom Cullen, reporter for the Storm Lake Times, will speak on Sept. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the University of Northern Iowa’s Sabin Hall (room 002) on his investigative work covering Iowa’s polluted rivers. The title of his talk is “Reporting on Iowa’s Polluted Rivers: How the Storm Lake Times Won a Pulitzer.”

Tom Cullen
Tom Cullen

In April 2017, Art Cullen, editor of the Storm Lake Times, won a Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing. The editorials candidly told the truth about Iowa’s water and revealed the wealthy interests behind the pollution. The Storm Lake Times won the award for editorial writing over finalists the Washington Post and Houston Chronicle.

The reporter behind those editorials was Tom Cullen, Art’s 24-year-old son. “Tom did all the heavy lifting on the water works story,” Art said, and “covered the lawsuit, dug into the science and continues to stay on top of the Raccoon River story.”

Tom Cullen’s reporting used Freedom of Information Act filings to seek the release of public records from Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac counties to uncover who was paying more than $1 million to fund their defense in a lawsuit filed by the Des Moines Water Works over nitrate pollution coming downstream from those counties. Ultimately, Storm Lake Times discovered it was the Agribusiness Association of Iowa. The investigation and revelations were the subject of the award-winning editorials.

Tom Cullen has been a reporter for the Storm Lake Times since 2014. He graduated from University of Northern Iowa in 2015, and studied economics and music.

Mr. Cullen’s visit is sponsored by Science in the Media, a project to give reporters tools to improve science reporting and strengthen the path between scientific knowledge and the news media in Iowa. See


Contact: Christopher Martin, Professor of Communication Studies and Director of the Science in the Media project, 319-273-6985,