Flatwater. Free Press.
Flatwater echoes the origins of our state’s name, a translation of the Oto or Omaha words for the Platte River. The Platte of course spans the state, providing sustenance and a travel route for this land’s first human inhabitants. Today it connects Scottsbluff to Omaha and hundreds of communities between. The word is all about Nebraska, all of Nebraska, and all of our state’s history.
Free references the First Amendment. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to participate in democracy — we hold these values dear. Through journalism, we aim to hold power accountable and amplify diverse voices. Free also describes our free and open nature – anyone will be able to read our work or republish it, with no barriers.
Press is the word that the Constitution uses to assign journalists an important role in democracy. It defines our mission as one of public service. We’re here to tell stories with a purpose: Helping Nebraska realize the best version of itself.
Matt Wynn, Executive Director
Matt Wynn is the Executive Director of the Nebraska Journalism Trust, which launched and funds the Flatwater Free Press. Most recently, he was an editor on the investigative desk at USA Today, where his investigation into the proliferation of model bills in statehouses was awarded the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting. Prior to that, he was the Director of Investigative and Enterprise at MedPage Today. He also spent time as a reporter at the Omaha World-Herald and other newspapers. An Omaha Central alum, he graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He lives in Omaha with his wife, Sarah, and three children.
Matthew Hansen, Editor
Matthew Hansen is the editor of the Flatwater Free Press, Nebraska’s first statewide nonprofit news source. Hansen, a 16-year veteran of Nebraska newspapers, has previously worked as a reporter at the Lincoln Journal Star and then a reporter and metro columnist at the Omaha World-Herald. During his time in newspapers, he travelled to Cuba and Afghanistan and won multiple state, regional and national awards for investigative stories, feature stories and columns. He was the 2015 Great Plains Writer of the Year. Most recently Hansen has served as the managing editor at the Buffett Early Childhood Institute, creating a new website focusing on early childhood education. The native of Red Cloud and one-time intern at the Red Cloud Chief and the Hastings Tribune now lives in Omaha and is married to Sarah Baker-Hansen, a longtime Nebraska food writer and restaurant critic. Their book together, “The Better Half” is an examination of the Nebraska’s finest road trips, restaurants and hidden stories.
Laura Beahm is a native Nebraskan. Laura works for the Hastings Tribune, which she joined after graduating from Central Community College. She loves telling stories in her hometown and surrounding communities. When she doesn’t have a camera in hand, Laura enjoys reading, kayaking, visiting breweries, watching baseball and playing ukulele.
Chris Bowling is the editor of the Omaha Reader. A native of Cincinnati, Bowling graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2018. While at UNL, Bowling was a reporter on “The Wounds of Whiteclay.” The student group project won the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Journalism Grand Prize — the first time student journalists had won that award.
Lauryn Higgins is a journalist whose work has focused primarily on public health, climate change and agriculture. Her work tracking the coronavirus for the New York Times was part of a team that won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. She graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she earned her master’s degree in journalism. She lives in Lincoln, with her fiancé, Sam, and her 80-pound lap dog, Gus.
Jazari Kual is a social media personality, and the founder & owner of Kualdom, a conglomerate with several different business lines. Growing up in Lincoln Jazari was involved in the arts and developed a passion for film and photography. When he’s not busy running his businesses, Jazari enjoys traveling, spending time with his family, and volunteering/giving back to his community — all while vlogging his experiences.
Isa Luzarraga is from Omaha and graduated from Millard North High School in 2021. She is currently an honors student at Emerson College in Boston studying journalism and media studies. Outside of freelancing, you can always find Isa running, reading, and exploring Boston’s Theater District.
WHAT WE COVER
Statewide means what it sounds like — stories as relevant in Valentine as they are in Nebraska City. These are issues that touch all of us. Think: the environment, legislative policy, universities and more.
For decades, traditional media has overlooked, well, a lot of people. We set out to do the opposite. One fourth of our stories should focus on black people, brown people, immigrants and our native communities.
We can’t cover a state while ignoring its two largest metros. We leave space to tell stories about people, businesses and institutions in the metropolitan areas. We include metro suburbs in this category.
We want to tell the stories of all the communities outside our metros, too. Whether they be plain old good yarns or long-term investigations, we’re committing a major part of our content mix to doing journalism throughout the state.