Some of you who watched the NBC’s Today show or KTIV-TV’s evening news last week might have seen the “Mr. Smith goes to Storm Lake” segment. It is a new weekly feature hosted by Harry Smith.

The piece featured Art and John Cullen of the Storm Lake Times speaking about the current problems and perceived future of their newspaper. Art is the editor who is nationally famous for winning the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for his editorial on our water quality in Iowa. John, his brother, is the publisher.

The television interview centered around the need for good journalism, especially in small towns, to inform citizens of what’s happening in their community that is affecting their day-to-day life.

Our family has known Art and John for decades and have a huge respect for their commitment to quality journalism. We print their twice-weekly paper at White Wolf Web in Sheldon, and it was our printing press that was interlaced with the Smith interview.

I can appreciate the two brothers’ comments in the NBC piece. The use of the internet and the cost of newsprint, ink, employees and insurance have all greatly increased. Advertising from traditional sources such as automotive and implement dealerships, and more recently some grocery chains, have all but disappeared.

But publishing newspapers is not a one-shoe-fits-all business. Not all papers are unprofitable, losing circulation or in need of government support. Government support, in my mind, could quickly change to government control. Journalists can only protect the community they serve if they are free to write what they believe without government censorship.

In many cases the loss of local advertising and reader support is because the newspaper lacks content. Subscribers aren’t willing to pay for a publication that lacks has anything to read.

But this isn’t the problem faced by the Cullen brothers. Their publication is packed full of worthy news and feature stories. It covers the happenings in the immediate Storm Lake area from the ball field to every city council meeting.

Newspapers, however, are not only bought for their editorial content. They also are read for their paid advertising. Subscribers want to know what bargains are available that week and what events they should plan to attend. That is something our family learned decades ago when we founded The N’West Iowa REVIEW. It is not enough to just publish good editorial content, publishers also must promote and sell a full advertising service.

Our commitment is to continue to reinvest in our papers, as well White Wolf Web, so we can continue to provide you, our readers, with the most expansive, comprehensive coverage of each week’s news.

While once daily newspapers in Worthington, MN, Spencer and LeMars have cut the number of days they publish as well as the number of people in the newsroom, we’ve always published once a week, on Saturday, to create the biggest, most complete publication possible. Over our 50-year history the Iowa Information news division has grown from three individuals to 13 writers and editors and four highly talented page designers.

They, in turn, are supported by a regional sales team of eight and seven very creative advertising copyrighters and designers.

I resent the way national television is consistently attempting to convince America that newspapers are not vital or effective. I never see those same networks do a story on how the many cable channels and streaming services are cutting deeply into their viewership and income.

In many communities the local newspaper is the only true media located in their market. The community is too small for a television station or even a radio station.

The newspaper alone remains the only credible source for local information from engagements to planned new taxes to the past week’s sports scores. The local newspaper remains the single best source to bring consensus to a community.

Our family is truly thankful for the support given us the last 60 years. We look forward to continuing to offer publishing excellence in all our newspapers — The N’West Iowa REVIEW, The Sheldon-Mail-Sun, Sioux Center News, Hawarden Independent-Ireton Examiner and The Osceola County Gazette-Tribune — for many years to come.


Peter W. Wagner lives in Sibley. He is the founder/publisher of The N’West Iowa REVIEW.