JIM CULLEN — an Iowan, a progressive publisher — in Austin, Texas

Dear Mike,

I've been in journalism for 32 years -- and that doesn't even include my work as a stringer for the Storm Lake Register and Pilot Tribune in the early 1970s.

I was associate editor of The Texas Observer from 1991 through July 1995. We started The Progressive Populist in the fall of 1995 and published the first issue in November 1995.

Progressive Populist Newspaper Publishes Premier Issue

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New York Times: Biden Lands an Iowa Paper Endorsement

New American
Dream Interview

JIM CULLEN, 54, lives in Manchaca, Texas, near Austin.

He is the editor of The Progressive Populist.

"The Progressive Populist is the creation of Jim Cullen in cahoots with his two brothers, John and Art.

"Jim Cullen has been in journalism for more than 30 years, working at weekly and daily newspapers in Iowa, Louisiana and Texas. At the Beaumont, Texas, Enterprise, he was the political writer and columnist six years before becoming the Hearst Newspapers capitol bureau reporter in Austin from 1989 to 1991.

"He was associate editor of The Texas Observer in Austin from 1991 to 1995, when he started The Progressive Populist. He and his wife, Becky Garcia, live in Manchaca, Texas, just outside Austin.

"John Cullen has worked as a photographer, reporter and editor at newspapers in Iowa and Washington state. He was named Iowa's Press Photographer of the Year.

"John founded The Storm Lake Times, a twice weekly county seat newspaper in his Iowa hometown.

"John is publisher of the Times and The Progressive Populist. He and his wife, Mary, have two children and live in Storm Lake.

"Art Cullen has worked at daily and weekly newspapers in Iowa for thirty years as a reporter and editor. He twice won the Champion-Tuck Award for Economic Reporting, based at Dartmouth College, for reporting on the Farm Crisis in Iowa.

"Art is editor of The Storm Lake Times and is managing editor of The Progressive Populist.

"The Cullens are the sons of the late Pat and Eileen Cullen of Storm Lake. Pat Cullen was foolish enough to run as a Democrat for the Iowa Legislature on the Kennedy ticket [in 1960]. He had a KKK cross burned in his "honor." He lost.

"The Progressive Populist labels itself as 'A Journal from America's Heartland.'

"It deals with political and economic topics of interest to "workers, small businesses, and family farmers and ranchers"; according to its about page, the journal "reports on issues of interest to the middle class of America."

More about Jim Cullen:


The New American Dream Trivia Question:

To win something be the last person to correctly answer the following.

Jim Cullen would rather be ....

a. Sports editor for Rolling Stone magazine

b. A fly on the wall of the Wall Street Journal

c. Kicking Alex Jones' butt in radical raquetball, once and for all

d. Jim, the other Coen brother

e. Czar in charge of making damn sure people say Guadaloop Street NOT Guadalupay Street!

f. The Austin Big Lebowski



The correct answer:

" I'd rather be editor of the 100,000-circulation Progressive Populist. Then life would be sweet. Otherwise, I probably aspire to be the Austin Big Lebowski.


There is a strong populist tradition
in the Midwest,
dating back to the 1880s,
defending the interests of farmers,
workers and small businesses
with an agenda that provided
much of the basis for the
progressive movement of
the early 1900s
and Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal.

NAD: Jim, hello, thank you for taking the time for this.

Jim, John, Art.

Did you all go to high school in Storm Lake? At the same time?

We all went to Storm Lake St. Mary's High School.

John was four years ahead of me, but he was graduated the year I was graduated from St. Mary's junior high.

Art was four years behind me, and he was a freshman when I was a senior in high school together.

But the whole school was small enough that, practically speaking, we all went to school together.

Do you still work together on all the various projects?

I don't do much work on the Times, although I have pitched in occasionally. I have a small financial interest in The Times.

Do you ever wish you were in Storm Lake?

Not during the wintertime.

NAD: How is it working out with The Progressive Populist?

After thirteen years of publication we are relatively stable, in the unsettled publishing world.

It took about seven years to break even — about five years longer than I reckoned in our business plan. We have maintained our paid circulation of approximately 10,000 through aggressive promotion.

NAD: Are you doing all you ever wanted to?

It isn't exactly what I thought I would be doing in 30-plus years when I got out of the University of Dallas in 1976, but it's a good gig.

NAD: How do you make it work, a hard copy, print, national publication. That's a lot.

It helps to have The Times handle the production, printing, mailing and circulation services.

I think there is still a role for a newspapers and newsmagazines in an Internet world.

We provide a twice-monthly collection of features and columns by plutocrat pluckers such as Jim Hightower and Amy Goodman to keep our readers current with trends in politics, economics and cultural affairs, and a website to provide other resources.

As more daily newspapers as well as newsweeklies are pulling back their coverage and trending toward corporate centrism, we think a progressive populist press is necessary now more than ever.

NAD: Why the name? What does it mean to you?

There is a strong populist tradition in the Midwest, dating back to the 1880s, defending the interests of farmers, workers and small businesses with an agenda that provided much of the basis for the progressive movement of the early 1900s and Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the term "populism" acquired right-wing connotations as it was identified with nativists and segregationists such as George Wallace and David Duke.

When in 1995 we started telling people about our plans to create The Progressive Populist, many liberals questioned why we would use the term "populist" because of the right-wing freight.

We told them we're trying to reclaim the good name of progressive populism, as exemplified in the work of Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, Bob LaFollette, Harold Hughes, Jim Hightower and Paul Wellstone.

In the intervening years I think populism has regained a more positive connotation of looking after the interests of working people, small businesses and family farmers and ranchers.

NAD: Would you like to choose one of these to answer, elaborate on?

We don't ask this to make fun. We ask because we really seek the answers.

Are UFOs real?

I don't know.

Did we land on the moon in 1968?

American astronauts are said to have landed on the moon in 1969.

— Did Bush knock down the towers?
— Was Paul Wellstone's death an accident?
— The Oklahoma City bombing? Wasn't that just another U.S. government terrorist exercise? Or not.
— Waco. We burned kids, right? You can see flames shooting out of the tanks. Or not.
— Is Bigfoot real?
— Is there a God?

... What makes you think that?

Best available evidence and lack of persuasive evidence otherwise.

NAD: Is there a next for you? Or is this okay, enough.

This keeps me busy.

NAD: Do you have hope in Obama?



I think he has progressive inclinations, but he intends to govern from a centrist point of view, which will be frustrating for progressives.

Progressives need to keep pressure on Obama and Democrats in Congress to pursue a progressive populist agenda.

NAD: Does your favorite coffee cup have words on it? What are they?

It's a big coffee cup from SIRSI, which distributes library automation software. (My wife is a librarian.)

NAD: What did you absolutely have to get done by noon today?

Needed to get to San Antonio.

NAD: How about by Christmas 2009?

Get subscriptions at or above 10,000.

NAD: What else would you like to add? What else should I have asked?

That's a good start. Good luck with your website.

NAD: If you would like, please insert a link here to something you would like linked to, with a brief tag re: where that link goes:

See The Progressive Populist website at



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