Looking forward to the future of journalism

Must reads: Texas watchdog journalism roundup for Dec. 10, 2017

Houses built in flood plain in Harris County

At a time when it feels like facts don’t matter, there’s a sliver of good news: 

Investigative journalists are still writing stories that help us understand a complicated world.

Here are the latest examples of watchdog stories in Texas that uncovered hidden facts and held officials accountable.

Build, flood, rebuild: flood insurance’s expensive cycle | The Houston Chronicle

“The National Flood Insurance Program, designed to protect Americans from catastrophic floods, has failed in almost every way, encouraging people to buy and build in flood-prone areas while increasing the cost and magnitude of disasters.” Story by David Hunn, Ryan Maye Handy and James Osborne

3 Dallas cops indicted in death of unarmed man who had called 911 for help | The Dallas Morning News

After the Dallas Morning News spent more than a year investigating how a frantic, unarmed man named Tony Timpa died at the hands of police, a grand jury indicted three officers on misdemeanor charges of deadly conduct. Officers mocked Timpa, who was handcuffed, as he died. “Timpa’s death was ruled a homicide, and the cause was sudden cardiac death due to the toxic effects of cocaine and the stress associated with physical restraint.” Story by Tasha Tsiaperas

‘Want to F*ck With Me Tonight’: Texas Capitol Horror Stories | The Daily Beast

Two Democratic state lawmakers from Texas, Borris Miles and Carlos Uresti, are accused of groping and forcibly kissing women and making lurid cat-calls. Both men deny the allegations. “Women in Texas’ statehouse created their own online whisper network to help protect themselves — more than a year before the bombshell allegations about movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.” Story by Olivia Messer

ICYMI: This was all about racism | Folo Media

A four-part series examines the lasting effects of racism, deed restrictions and educational disparities in San Antonio. “When you develop a school finance system that’s based on local property values at the exact same time that you’re explicitly segregating neighborhoods on race, then you can’t act surprised 50 years later — 70 years later — when things are unequal,” said analyst Chandra Villanueva. Story by Matt Worthington and Bekah McNeel

Builders Said Their Homes Were Out of a Flood Zone. Then Harvey Came. | The New York Times

“A New York Times examination found that in the years leading up to Hurricane Harvey, the developers of The Woodlands had used a wrinkle in the federal flood-mapping system — along with many dump trucks’ worth of dirt — to lift dozens of lots out of the area officially deemed prone to flooding. What they had done, in effect, was create gerrymandered maps of risk.” Story by John Schwartz, James Glanz and Andrew W. Lehren

Suddenly disabled, unable to work and need benefits? Prepare for financial ruin first | The Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“In Fort Worth, and across the nation, the system is backlogged to the point of near-absurdity. Local applicants can wait up to two years for a hearing before a judge, with many cities facing longer waits.” Story by Jeff Caplan

Diversions and disguises: Behind Austin’s city manager search | The Austin American-Statesman

“To dodge reporters, consultants suggested the finalists to be Austin’s next city manager don wigs, pretend to be tourists or possibly even wear Halloween masks after American-Statesman reporters managed to identify several candidates during the city’s top-secret search for its next leader.” Story by Philip Jankowski

Did I miss a good story? Contact me or leave a comment below. Don’t forget to sign up for blog updates and check out more watchdog journalism from the great state of Texas.