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Whether big or small, local media still matters

We can take away a lot of things from a recent Pulitzer Prize won by Art Cullen of the Storm Lake Times. It reinforces the notion that many who work at Iowa newspapers already know.

Our state has some of the best small and large newspapers in the United States. The annual Iowa Newspaper Association’s convention is one of the most well-attended press association conventions in the country.

This honor also means that research and investigation are still alive and well at all newspapers, even at ones that are located in small towns, much like Storm Lake, which has a population of 10,000. It takes a lot of effort to produce investigative pieces, especially at a small newspaper where the many duties of producing a newspaper are spread across few bodies. Cullen was recognized for his series of editorials on the 2015 Des Moines Water Works lawsuit against the boards of supervisors in Buena Vista, Sac and Calhoun counties.

He didn’t just espouse his opinion. He thoroughly vetted those topics and produced thought-provoking pieces that eventually beat out competitors from The Washington Post and Houston Chronicle.

Most of all, though, this honor once again displays the value of all local media. We don’t have to work for the major media organizations to make an impact. For many residents in towns across Iowa, the story of that lawsuit doesn’t register on our priority scale. But it did for those who were living in those counties.

The same can be said for the issues surrounding Clinton, Clinton County, Fulton, Illinois, Camanche and the other local towns. What’s happening in this area likely doesn’t matter to people even living in Davenport or Dubuque, but it matters to us. And if local media organizations aren’t there to tell you about it, who will?

I can guarantee you that the people who are using your tax money won’t tell you. They may want to relay the good news, but sometimes, government actions, court activity, police and fire stories, street work and everything else under the sun, doesn’t always lend itself as a pretty picture. There’s nuance in many issues, so that’s where local media organizations can provide an objective perspective.

And that perspective comes in the form of more than just sitting around a coffee shop or on Facebook talking about what’s happening outside our windows. In most cases, it means covering meetings where government officials are deciding how to spend taxpayer money. There’s not a full house at those meetings, either.

It’s generally board members, some staff members, the Clinton Herald and KROS. That’s about it.

This Pulitzer highlights how much it matters to have local media. Communities need a place to turn to for what’s happening with not only their money, but how safe it is in certain areas of town and what there is to do.

And now more than ever, readers and local residents can have a say in what matters to them most. The Internet has been a frustrating part of newspaper fortunes in the past 20 years, but it also has provided a better opportunity for a two-way communication between editors, reporters and readers.

Starting next week, the Clinton Herald also is hosting coffees for local residents to come by and tell us what they like, dislike and what they want out of their newspaper. We see elected officials all the time, so it will be nice to be available to community members. Our daily newspaper and online offerings are directed toward you, so it’s just natural that we include you in our continued pursuit for better content.

Feel free to come to our first coffee at 8 a.m. Tuesday at Sweetheart Bakery and give us your take on the state of the community. We may not win a Pulitzer, but we’ll make sure we’ll have the community’s best interest in mind when producing our daily newspaper.

Source: Clinton Herald