Looking forward to the future of journalism

Must reads: Texas watchdog journalism roundup for Jan. 14, 2018

Texas Governor Greg Abbott greets supporters
Photo credit: San Antonio Express-News

If it seems like facts no longer matter in politics, 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.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s appointees have given him more than $14 million | The San Antonio Express-News

“Despite pleas for more diversity and less of a big-money presence, Gov. Greg Abbott’s appointments to state boards and commissions remain mostly Anglo, largely male and liberally sprinkled with donors to a giant campaign war chest years in the making, a San Antonio Express-News analysis shows.” Story by Peggy Fikac and Annie Millerbernd

Cruel and unusual: Dallas County teen inmates locked indoors for months | The Dallas Morning News

“Death row inmates in Texas are given at least an hour a week outdoors. Hardened criminals inside California’s famous San Quentin prison get 10 hours. Yet kids at a Dallas County correctional center for boys went months, sometimes more than a year, without going outdoors more than a few times.” Story by Steve Thompson and Naomi Martin

How a South Texas bureaucrat became a multimillionaire amid the rush to build a border fence | The Texas Tribune and ProPublica

“A decade ago as the federal government rushed to construct 60 miles of barrier in the Rio Grande Valley, it entrusted the chief of a little-known local agency to execute a compromise project. What it didn’t know was that he — and his family — stood to make millions from it.” Story by Kiah Collier, T. Christian Miller and Julian Aguilar

Records: County housing official tried to get herself big raise weeks after starting job |KSAT 12

“Email records obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders confirm that the recently hired operations coordinator for the Housing Authority of Bexar County tried to arrange a large raise for herself, 10 weeks after starting her position. The employee, Amy Hopper, resigned in October, hours after the Defenders requested emails related to the pay increase.” Story by Dillon Collier

Bibles, boots and booze: Lawmakers go big with campaign cash gifts | The San Antonio Express-News

“It’s the season for giving. But state lawmakers already have been gifting generously all year, using campaign cash to buy spa services, alcohol, porch rockers, Bibles and other items for their staff, constituents and fellow legislators.” Story by Allie Morris

For buyers within ‘flood pools,’ no warnings from developers, public officials | The Houston Chronicle

“A Houston Chronicle review of how more than 100 subdivisions were approved shows that flooding spawned by Harvey was predicted for 26 years in obscure local and federal reports that were either ignored or not widely distributed. The record rainfall came from nature, but its impact was multiplied by man.” Story by Lise Olsen

Transportation commissioner billed taxpayers for trips while advocating for auto industry | The Texas Tribune

Texas Transportation Commissioner Victor Vandergriff repeatedly conducted private business in Austin while the Texas Department of Transportation paid for his travel and other expenses, blurring the lines between his role as a gubernatorial appointee and his paid consulting gigs, according to a Texas Tribune investigation of government travel vouchers and agency correspondence. Story by Jay Root

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.