Looking forward to the future of journalism

Telling stories about the unthinkable: How three journalists shined a spotlight on child abuse

Sarah Brasse
Sarah Brasse

In February 2009, an 8-year-old girl from Schertz died, alone, of acute appendicitis — a disease that could have easily been treated if caught in time.

In the hours leading up to her death, people concerned about the girl — including officers from the Schertz Police Department — had warned the Texas Department of Child Protective Services that she was a victim of neglect.

CPS didn’t act. And on Feb. 5, 2009, authorities found the girl’s body in a soiled bed.

Her name was Sarah Brasse.

It wasn’t so long ago in Texas that you would have had a tough time learning any of those tragic details.

In fact, according to the state officials in charge of protecting children from abusive adults, you would have had no legal right to even know Brasse’s name.

And you certainly wouldn’t be able to know the agency missed opportunities to help Brasse.

But a decade of diligent reporting by three Express-News journalists shined a spotlight of transparency on tragedies involving Brasse and scores of other children in San Antonio, helping the public understand the unfathomable.

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San Antonio lawyer Alberto Acevedo says he bribed judge, got favorable treatment

Express-News Reporter Guillermo Contreras, who covers the federal-courts beat, has been writing scoop after scoop about an FBI investigation at the Bexar County courthouse in San Antonio. The latest bombshell is a story about this plea deal for local defense lawyer Alberto “Al” Acevedo Jr., who lays out in excruciating detail how he bribed Bexar … Read more

Live-blogging the IRE 2013 Conference in San Antonio: Resources that will help you be a better journalist

IRE Conference 2013

Check out some of my favorite research tips, strategies and resources from this year’s Investigative Reporters and Editors conference, where about 1,100 incredibly talented journalists are meeting in San Antonio. These conferences are geared for journalists, but really anyone who’s interested in research tools will find many of these tips handy.

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Live-blogging the IRE 2012 Conference in Boston: Resources that will help you be a better investigative journalist

IRE 2012 Conference in BostonThe classic stereotype about journalists is that we’re all backstabbing vultures who would sell our mothers for a good story.

Nothing could be further from the truth. First of all, we only sell our mothers for really, really good stories. But more importantly, we’re actually an amazingly friendly, collaborative bunch.

I’m in Boston where more than 1,000 people are trading tips, offering advice and learning from the best journalists around at this year’s Investigative Reporters and Editors conference.

This is the place to be if you’ve ever wondered, say, how Washington Post reporters figured out the complexities of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. You get to listen to the actual reporters who worked on the story. They’re essentially saying, “Here’s how we did it, and here are some tips we learned to help you work on the same kind of story.” It’s a goldmine for anyone who cares about journalism and wants to do it better.

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‘A need to investigate the bastards’

Columbia Journalism review posted an interesting feature story about nonprofit investigative news organizations, and how they take different approaches to funding and sharing their content. The CJR story opens with a telling anecdote about a meeting at California Watch. At the meeting, the editors agree that one of their reporters, after months of digging, has … Read more

Watchdog blog roundup for 4-21-10

What others are saying about watchdog journalism: Jane Podesta: Lou Grant-style editor J. Todd Foster didn’t cut back on investigative journalism at his small newspaper, which won a Pulitzer Prize. Nieman Journalism Lab: High-quality investigative journalism can’t rely on just one or two sources of cash. Texas Tribune Founder John Thornton says news ventures must … Read more

Video: How a journalist uncovered fraud in a $350 million child-care program

Rosland Gammon had an interesting Q&A with investigative reporter Raquel Rutledge of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who uncovered rampant fraud in a $350 million, taxpayer-subsidized child-care program. Her series of stories, Cashing in on Kids, led to criminal charges against the scammers. A video profiling Rutledge offers a glimpse at the tedious grunt work required … Read more