The value of community journalism is front and centre in a US film which premieres during the 19th annual AFI DOCS film festival this month.
Directors Beth Levison and Jerry Risius introduce us to the Cullens, described by AFI programmer Ken Jacobsen as “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. “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 Levison and 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,” he writes. “As Art says, ‘Without strong local journalism to tell a community’s story, the fabric of the place becomes frayed.’
The documentary is due to premiere at AFI DOCS from June 22-27. Tickets for virtual and in-person screenings are on sale now here.