We’re adding to our board, and looking great doing it

A company is only as good as its people, the old axiom goes.

That’s especially true at a startup nonprofit.

We envision a future where journalism’s ability to hold truth to power is put to judicious ends. Where it’s accessible to everyone.  Where it is steadfast in calling out bad actors and works on behalf of the governed — not the governing.

That’s a big, hairy, audacious goal. It’s as vague as it is ambitious.

Luckily, we have an entire board of directors who are all in on making it happen. And, I’m pleased to report, it’s growing.

For the people who make this thing go, there’s no payment. No equity. It’s paperwork and phonecalls and responsibilities and meetings — endless meetings — with no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Despite those significant headwinds, we have a board whose list of accomplishments run a mile long. The kind of people who represent the best of Nebraska. ALL of Nebraska.

From Day 1 (technically, months before day 1) that has meant a board of four: former Nebraska secretary of state John Gale, Women’s Fund executive director Jo Giles, former Merrill Lynch wealth management senior vice president Lynn Roper, and Norfolk Daily News editor emeritus Kent Warneke.

Our board governs the whole operation, ensuring we keep our mission of public good first and foremost. Indeed, as a nonprofit, we’re owned by no one, directly accountable to our board and the public we serve.

That incredible group has built a solid, sturdy foundation.

They came up with our name. They’ve adopted policies and bylaws that insulate our journalism and ensure our moral compass is pointed true north. They’ve built a budget and a staff and navigated whatever slings and arrows came their way.

Our entirely Nebraska board is how we’ve managed to build such a weirdly, wonderfully Nebraskan operation. 

Our two newest members will fit right in:

Maricia Guzmàn

Maricia Guzmàn grew up on a small farm right outside of Scottsbluff. She attended Scottsbluff High School, where she discovered a passion for journalism and writing. Guzmàn attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she was a member of the Mexican American Student Association, Multicultural Students in Media and the Melvin Jones Scholars.

In 2018, Guzmàn obtained her Master’s of Science in Education through the University of Nebraska at Kearney. She then transitioned to her current role as Multicultural & International Student Support Director at Western Nebraska Community College.

Resume aside, she has a track record of making waves. Guzmàn cofounded the nonprofit organization Empowering Families, which seeks to empower local Native American and Hispanic families through education, civic engagement and resources.

I briefly overlapped with Guzmàn when she interned at the Omaha World-Herald. Her reputation has only grown since then. I can’t wait to work with her on what’s next for this organization.

Andy Pollock

Andy Pollock, of rural Seward County, is a partner with the Rembolt Ludtke law firm with offices in Lincoln and Seward. Pollock’s primary practice is government relations and lobbying. In the past few years, he has led efforts to reform telecommunications and broadband laws and regulations so that competition can accelerate infrastructure deployment in rural areas. Pollock also dabbles in history and creative writing. Growing on the south side of Lake McConaughy, Pollock had few neighbors, but a big playground and a view of the Nebraska Sandhills beyond the reservoir. 

Pollock, too, has journalism roots. His parents published the Keith County News. Talk to him for any length of time, and it’s clear he has a respect for the power and responsibility of what we do and idea to move it forward. 

Both Guzmàn and Pollock grow this board in new ways. They bring new skills and new perspectives… and a track record of making things happen.

If you’re keeping score at home, you might notice that we’ve gone from four members to six. That’s less than ideal, as it leaves the door open for split votes.

That means we are still looking for one more member to take a three-year term. The board has several considerations in who will round out the group. Geographically, we stretch from Omaha to Scottsbluff. Our board has roots in Norfolk, North Platte, Scottsbluff, Ogallala, Lincoln. 

We’re politically split: Jo Giles ran as a Democrat for Douglas County Board. John Gale chaired the Nebraska Republican Party prior to his nearly two decades in elected office. The remaining members fill in across the spectrum.

That means we have some flexibility with our next appointment. I’d love to add someone with an agricultural background. I also think we’re free to add another voice from Omaha. 

Some of the gaps in our experience will be plugged by a journalism advisory board, something I’m still piecing together.

Expect more on our vacancy soon, and please reach out if you have ideas for who would be a good fit.

Speaking of fits, I have got to take a second to be a fanboy. Right before we shut down from the holidays, Matthew and I got an email from Mike Draper, the brains behind Raygun, the Iowa apparel company that finally saw fit to expand to Omaha. 

We know them because, well, everything they do is great. One of our first official purchases for our office was a set of “America Needs Journalists” mugs. We gave them to our reporters on their first day. I’ve got the matching shirt, because I’m that kind of dork.

Raygun brands themselves the “greatest store in the universe.” After getting the chance to work with them firsthand, I’m inclined to agree.

Starting today, Raygun is officially making Flatwater Free Press swag. Look at those shirts! Every one they sell will help fund this endeavor. Over time, we’ll add a few more items to our lineup. And, of course, we’ll make all of it available at future FFP events. 

This is a time of extraordinary growth for Flatwater. I expect I’ll be sharing more updates and organizational odds and ends over the next few months. 

As always, this organization is built for you. If you have story ideas, if you want to join our freelance army, or if you’d like to talk about how we should grow, please don’t be a stranger.

Thanks for reading; more soon.

By Matt Wynn

Matt Wynn is the Executive Director of the Nebraska Journalism Trust, which launched and funds the Flatwater Free Press. He has spent 13 years at news organizations across the country, most recently on the investigative team at USA Today. He lives in his hometown of Omaha with his wife, Sarah, and three children.