Former DDN reporter and two-time Pulitzer winner, Kim Christensen dies at 71

Kim Christensen, a member of two Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper teams who got his start in the Dayton Daily News newsroom, has died.

Christensen, who died of cancer Monday at his Long Beach, California, home, was 71.

At the Orange County Register, he was part of a team that won the Pulitzer for reporting on stories about fertility fraud at the University of California-Irvine. At the Oregonian, in Portland, his work on abuse of immigrants by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service also earned the Pulitzer.

Retired Dayton Daily News reporter Wes Hills worked with Christensen in the ’80s, including an in-depth piece about an east Dayton crime family.

Hills said he and Christensen did interviews for the story and parted ways for the weekend. When Hills returned to work, he asked if Christensen had worked on the story and was stopped by managing editor Steve Sidlo.

Sidlo told Hills: “Don’t you touch it. That is the most perfect story I’ve ever read,” Hills said. “I sat down and read it … and I wouldn’t change a comma on it.”

“Kim Christensen was the finest writer I ever worked with and I’m telling you I worked with some of the best,” Hills said.

But despite this talent, “he was the most unpretentious human being you’ve ever known,” Hills said.

In fact Christensen’s laid back demeanor disarmed people. “He made people comfortable and they would just slowly really open up to him and tell everything,” Hills said.

A Dayton native who grew up in the Shiloh area and graduated from Chaminade High School and Wright State University, Christensen was the third generation from his family to work for the Dayton Daily News.

His maternal grandfather, Richard Cull, worked as an editor for Gov. James Cox, and his uncle, Richard Cull Jr., was a Washington Bureau Chief for Cox Newspapers.

Christensen joined the Orange County Register in the mid-1980s after leaving the Dayton Daily News and then moved to the Oregonian in 1999.

Brent Walth, one of three other reporters who worked with Christensen on the Oregonian story, told the Los Angeles Times that he was “the rare investigative reporter who was truly a likable soul.”

“He did not like attention drawn to him,” Walth said. “He saw the work that he did as a duty and didn’t feel he deserved any special praise or attention for having done the work.”

Sidlo, a Dayton Daily News city editor at the time, said Christensen could write about complicated issues with grace.

“He was such a graceful writer and reporter. He made people feel comfortable when he spoke to them about stories. He was one of the very best I’ve worked with,” Sidlo said.

At the LA Times, Christensen wrote about individual cases involving sexual abuse connected to the Boy Scouts. After retiring from The Times in 2022, he developed the material into a book, “On My Honor,” that he turned in to his publisher in December, shortly before he was diagnosed with cancer, the LA Times reported.

Christensen met his wife, Chris (Davis) Christensen, at the Dayton Daily News.

“We both started in the Neighbors section. Believe it or not, Kim started taking the Pet of the Week photo,” Chris said with a laugh.

“Journalism was in his blood from the start. It charged him, and news has always been a part of his life.”

In addition to his wife, who lives in Long Beach, Christensen is survived by children Gayle (Keith) Rea, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and Michael Davis of Long Beach, plus two grandchildren and two great-grandsons. He is the son of Norbert (Chris) and Janet Christensen of Dayton.