A new captain takes the helm


John Cullen

Next Monday will mark the 30th anniversary of the founding of The Storm Lake Times, so it seems like an appropriate time for me to step aside as publisher after all those years. Brother Art will take the rudder and steer this ship from its harbor in Storm Lake, effective July 1.

There’s nothing wrong with me physically or mentally, although some may disagree about the latter. It’s just that I’m 70 years old and getting lazier by the day. We need new blood.

Because we have such a capable staff, I’ve only worked about half-time the past couple of years and we haven’t missed a beat. So I’m sure the place will get along fine without me. It’s just time.

I’ve spent the last 30 years worrying about everything and everyone involved in running a business, I’ll let someone else have that fun.

Newspapers have endured challenging times in recent years years as we transition from the printed page to the digital screen. I couldn’t care less about the digital age, and that’s a big problem. I’m content to read the printed page and that’s not good for a guy in my position.

Art and I have worked as partners for these three decades and he has become the face of The Times, especially after he won the Pulitzer Prize for his editorials in 2017 that brought worldwide attention to Storm Lake and The Times.

When we started The Times in 1990, our goal was to publish the best paper possible for our community, and the Pulitzer Prize has validated that work. Art has earned a reputation as one of the best journalists in America and brought great credit upon this community through his book, aptly named “Storm Lake,” frequent appearances on network television news programs, and writing in esteemed publications such as The New York Times, Washington Post, and the Guardian.

My main contribution to this enterprise was talking Art into giving up a career with daily newspapers to join me in this startup 30 years ago. Along with him came Dolores and their four kids, who all worked here at various times. Now Tom is following in his dad’s footsteps as our main newsman and his reporting was integral to Art’s award-winning editorials.

Wife Mary has also worked by my side during this time, writing her weekly My Favorite Recipe column, Around Town reports, Days of Yore historical vignettes, recording the county’s real estate transfers, legal notices and gathering advertising tearsheets. Plus putting up with me. Our kids, Bridget and Justin, both grew up working at The Times before embarking on their own careers in Chicago and Washington, D.C.

Jon Robinson, who has been integral to the success of The Times in his nearly 20 years here, will also assume a larger role in the management of the business. Thanks to Jon, Jamie, Jen, Whitney, Jennifer, Dolores, Tom and Mary for all your work and support over the years.

I’m not abandoning The Times. I’ll continue to work here, including writing this column, until I win a Pulitzer too. I’ve been in this business for 48 years and I intend to get my 50 year pin from the Iowa Newspaper Association two years hence and keep on going until they toss me out.

Since I’m giving up the publisher title, what should my new position be? If I was an attorney, I could say I was “Of Counsel.” Maybe I could be “Publisher Emeritus.” Or just plain “Old Man.”

Now, if you’ll pardon me, I must check on my tomatoes.

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