Nebraska’s FlatWater Free Press Gets in Good Trouble

There’s a fascinating story around the work of Flatwater Free Press (FFP), a WordPress publisher in Nebraska.

Yanqi Xu is a reporter for FFP. She won a national award for “Our Dirty Water”, a series about Nebraska’s high nitrate levels and their connection clusters amongst local residents. Farmers in Nebraska are using fertilizers full of nitrate. That nitrate making people sick across the state and forcing local governments to spend millions of dollars to clean up their drinking water.

Here’s the first part of the series, the second part, and the third part. It’s a powerful series with some great visual story-telling, starting with this MapBox integration:

Flatwater Free Press nitrate map

The series also has this side-by-side comparison of nitrate levels and cancer levels:

Nitrates vs Cancer in Nebraska

For that series, Yanqi Xu was attacked by Nebraska’s governor whose family owned some of the farms producing nitrate.

I highly recommend reading the response from FFP’s Executive Director. His response defends Yanqi and tells her story. She grew up in Guangzhou, China, then moved to the University of Missouri-Columbia and studied journalism. Her experience was documented by Poynter.

This is story that documents why these new publishers matter. FFP is only two years old but it’s reporting stories that may save people’s lives.

For similar publishers, check out Ag & Water Desk, Block Club Chicago, and members of the Rural News Network.

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