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New Nebraska journalism nonprofit digs deep on local stories

Flatwater Free Press will partner with local media, focus on statewide investigations
Posted at 3:14 PM, Sep 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-03 20:30:07-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — This week, local reporters with roots in rural and urban Nebraska published their first stories from a new statewide journalism nonprofit organization – the Flatwater Free Press.

Group founders Matt Wynn and Matthew Hansen, former newspaper reporters, say they will focus on depth reporting with statewide reach. Those stories could come from Ord or Omaha.

“Stories with statewide impact are the sort of stories that are the first things to go when media starts to shrink,” Hansen said. “So those are the sorts of stories we want to do.”

Private donors fund their work, instead of advertisers and paid subscribers. The group plans to share their stories for free with Nebraska media outlets and Nebraskans, while accepting donations.

They also plan to partner on some investigative stories with local media outlets statewide, including 3 News Now Investigators. Their aim: to cover people and places that get overlooked.

Wynn and Hansen say they look forward to covering stories in under-served rural communities and urban neighborhoods. They’ll have a mix of full-time staff and stringers.

“It’s very hard to make the case to cover a town of 600 people, ever,” Wynn said. “But it’s still important. And that’s work that needs to be done.”

Said Hansen: “Basically the common thread to me is finding stories that few other people are telling.”

Flatwater’s first story asks why public health leaders in South Omaha are vaccinating people at higher rates than health departments in parts of rural Nebraska.

They found a door-to-door effort in South Omaha by One World Community Health Centers that was working, a story that you can read right here on 3newsnow.com.

They also did a story on the struggles of a woman evicted from her home helping others avoid that fate. And they talked to local doctors frustrated with vaccine resistance and misinformation.

The group is funded by donors with ties to conservative and liberal political causes. Those include the Platte Institute Gov. Pete Ricketts helped start and Susie Buffett’s Sherwood Foundation.

Their site says they are seeking about $2 million in preliminary funding and they say they have secured more than half. Wynn and Hansen urged people to visit flatwaterfreepress.org and sign up for their newsletter, perhaps even donate.

Wynn said he was around when some of the first nonprofit newsrooms in the country got off the ground and helped some of them build websites and work on stories.

"And I thought that really needs to happen in Nebraska,” he said. “I kept waiting for some adult to do that and no one did. And all of a sudden I had gray hair and it was my turn.”

READ MORE: Nebraska doctors despondent as preventable COVID wave slams state

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