An award-winning journalist with Quad-City roots has been named as the Quad-City Times’ new executive editor.
Times Publisher Debbie Anselm announced the selection of Matt Christensen to the Times newsroom staff Wednesday. He currently is the editor at the Times-News in Twin Falls, Idaho. He will join the Times on March 6.
Christensen replaces Autumn Phillips, who resigned last month to become managing editor of The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina.
Christensen, 36, an East Moline native, brings 13 years of journalism experience to his new position, including as a reporter, city editor and editor. After beginning his career as a reporter in Twin Falls, he also has worked at the La Crosse (Wisconsin) Tribune and Montana Standard, before returning to the Times-News as its editor in 2015.
His whole career has been with newspapers owned by the Davenport-based Lee Enterprises, also the parent company of the Times.
“Matt is a highly engaged editor with a compelling track record," Anselm said. "His work in Twin Falls demonstrates his strong commitment to local journalism and community leadership.”
Christensen, a graduate of United Township High School in East Moline, said he is honored to be chosen to lead the Times newsroom. "The Quad-City Times is a great newspaper and I think the newspaper reflects the community. Both have a legendary past and a promising future," he said.
"This is a homecoming for us," he said, adding that his wife Melissa also is a UTHS graduate. "Professionally, it's a dream job. This is the flagship newspaper for Lee Enterprises."
Under his leadership at the Times-News, Christensen and his newsroom spearheaded fact-based journalism while Twin Falls was engulfed by anti-immigrant fervor. Facebook officials later acknowledged much of the furor was stoked by Russian propagandists, who seized on a sexual abuse case involving Muslim migrants living in Twin Falls. The Times-News frequently reported and editorialized on the issue, helping organize community forums with U.S. congressmen and immigration experts.
According to Christensen, "we were on the front lines of the Fake News situation" for three years, including during the presidential election. The controversy, which "triggered a massive division in our community," drew national media attention as well as attention from far-right leaning groups.
"It was a situation where the community didn't know what to believe or who to trust and the newspaper was there for them," he said. "It was a powerful lesson for the community and newspapers that there is inherent value in the truth. I think we came out on the other side a stronger community and stronger newspaper."
To the Quad-City Times, he plans to "bring a sense of urgency to the newspaper — where we're surprising readers and we're essential to readers across the board whether that is breaking news, in-depth stories or long-form series that we do. I'm not here to change the core mission of the paper. I'm not here to totally uproot a really good newsroom. I'm here to take and leverage the talent we have to produce the best newspaper we can."
Christensen led his current newspaper to its first-ever Pinnacle Award, an award for Idaho's most-awarded media outlet. He also has received first place for editorial writing and general column writing from the Idaho Press Club. Twin-News also received a regional Associated Press public service award for its coverage of the immigrant story.
"We are excited to have Matt at the helm as we work to expand our offerings in many areas, including education, health and consumer-focused reporting," Anselm said.
Christensen is a 2005 journalism graduate of Iowa State University, Ames. He serves on the board for the Associated Press Managing Editors. He also is a recipient of the Jefferson Award for an emphasis in sociology.
He and wife Melissa have two daughters, Maddie, 9, and Lily, 7.