Looking forward to the future of journalism

Must reads: Texas watchdog journalism roundup for Dec. 19, 2017

Barge on the San Antonio River
The San Antonio Express-News investigated an accountant accused of embezzling $260,000 from Centro San Antonio, a nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing downtown San Antonio.

If it feels like you’re trapped in a topsy-turvy world where facts no longer matter, there’s a sliver of good news:

Investigative journalists are still writing powerful, evidence-based stories that help us understand a complicated world.

Here are the latest examples of watchdog stories in Texas that show why facts still matter.

Accountant tied to embezzlement at Centro San Antonio has history of bank fraud, bankruptcy | The San Antonio Express-News

The accountant suspected of embezzling $260,000 from Centro San Antonio, a nonprofit organization focused on revitalizing downtown, was hired without a background check. It turns out she had been convicted of felony bank fraud and theft by check. Story by Richard Webner

Blockback: How police put guns on the street and Congress hides what happens to them | The Texas Standard and Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting

Nearly half of Texas’ 50 largest law enforcement agencies sell their used firearms to the public, creating a pipeline of guns flowing right back into communities and potentially putting weapons in the hands of criminals.

“The San Antonio Police Department, which faced a series of city audits for inadequate tracking of departmental guns, appealed to the Texas attorney general’s office to hide specifics of its weapons sales. When the attorney general forced the department to release information this year, it reported selling 2,855 handguns in the last decade.” Story by Alain Stephens

The Taking: How the federal government abused its power to seize property for a border fence | The Texas Tribune and ProPublica

“An investigation by ProPublica and The Texas Tribune shows that Homeland Security cut unfair real estate deals, secretly waived legal safeguards for property owners, and ultimately abused the government’s extraordinary power to take land from private citizens.” Story by T. Christian Miller, Kiah Collier and Julian Aguilar

Unresponsive: More women are going to jail in need of drug and alcohol treatment. Help often comes too late | The Dallas Morning News

“As a record number of women go to jail in Texas, sheriffs are increasingly coping with a special class of inmates: women with minor criminal records but major mental-health and addiction problems. A recent federal survey found that almost a third of women in jails showed symptoms of serious psychological distress, even higher than the rate for men.” Story by Cary Aspinwall and Stephanie Lamm

After the deluge: Unfettered building, scant oversight add to cost of hurricanes in U.S. | Reuters

“Across the country, newer construction in flood-prone areas generated more than $9 billion in claims for structural damage on the cash-strapped flood insurance program between 2000 and 2015. Flood-management authorities say that some of those claims probably never would have been filed had proper building controls and accurate flood maps been in place.” Story by Benjamin Lesser and Ryan McNeill

How the oil industry set out to undercut clean air | The Center for Public Integrity and the Guardian

“Air quality is the new frontier for climate-change skeptics long tied to the American Petroleum Institute. The institute has fueled uncertainty on climate by producing what critics call misleading scientific and economic studies. Now, by attempting to discredit established research on ozone and fine particles, API and its cadre of doubters are trying to undermine the Clean Air Act — the landmark U.S. law credited with saving millions of lives.” Story by Jie Jenny Zou and Tom Dart

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.