The Flatwater Free Press is celebrating its first birthday in the best way I can imagine. We’re growing. And I couldn’t be more thrilled about how.
Right about the time editor Matthew Hansen and I started actually launching this publication, we began to notice a new byline at the Omaha World-Herald, our journalistic alma mater.
A lot of OWH reporters tend to be people we know — former interns, reporters from other Nebraska outlets and the like. So it was surprising to see a name we weren’t familiar with doing some bang-up stories right from the jump.
It was the kind of revelatory work Matthew and I admire. Work based on asking questions and filing records requests, not breathlessly recording the tit for tat of politicians.
Just a few months after landing in Omaha, she asked the obvious question of backers behind the Nebraska push for voter ID: has there ever been a case of someone impersonating another voter? She asked a who’s who of experts, and got her answer. Nope.
When Nebraska deployed its state troopers to the border of Texas, she didn’t regurgitate talking points from politicians. She asked who would foot the bill. She dug into millions of dollars in no-bid contracts awarded to a Utah company — at least one of which came after a sizable donation to the Nebraska Republican party.
Long story short: we didn’t build a job for Sara Gentzler… but we may as well have.
She is precisely the type of reporter we envisioned for the next phase of the Flatwater Free Press. She is probing but respectful. She is whip smart yet humble. She is well sourced and a joy to be around.
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Sara graduated from Gretna High School and Creighton University. After graduation, she headed to Washington state, where she covered state government for four newspapers. She and her husband, Alex, welcomed identical twin boys in June.
Sara already has a notebook full of ideas for shining a light on the day-to-day operations of our state government and its agencies. (And, as always, we’re eager to hear yours).
I can’t wait to work with her. I can’t wait to share her work with you, our fantastic supporters.
I also can’t wait to keep on growing.
This was our first hire since last November, when we were still just getting off the ground. I was blown away by the quantity and quality of applicants. People applied from every major newsroom in the state. They applied from across the country. I talked to applicants whose work I’ve admired for years, people who have done impactful journalism either in Nebraska or elsewhere, who have revealed things that led to changes in how government does what it does.
This month, Matthew has been sharing some of our greatest hits from the first year of Flatwater on social media. If you haven’t already, check it out.
Matthew, Natalia, Yanqi, our interns and our fabulous freelancers have already delivered some incredible journalism.
Here’s the best part: There is still so much more to come.
The Flatwater Free Press is Nebraska’s first independent, nonprofit newsroom focused on investigations and feature stories that matter.