Looking forward to the future of journalism

Must reads: Texas watchdog journalism roundup for Jan. 21, 2018

Eagle Ford Shale Water Usage Increasing
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

Bigger wells, but more water | The San Antonio Express-News

“Shale wells are swallowing twice as much water as they did a few years ago — around 10 million gallons each, or about 15 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The process of making a Texas oil well has grown increasingly intense since the start of the shale boom, with more water, more sand, and more stages in the hydraulic fracturing process leading to wells that make more oil, but also require more resources, according to a San Antonio Express-News analysis of the data drillers have reported to the industry website FracFocus for the past seven years.” Story by Jennifer Hiller

Dangerous Deliveries: Is Texas doing enough to stop moms from dying? | The Texas Tribune

“Researchers were stunned by Texas, where the maternal mortality rate had apparently doubled between 2010 and 2012. That year, 148 women died as the state’s mortality rate hit its highest level since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started recordkeeping with its current disease codes in 1999. The study’s authors called the increase troubling and difficult to explain ‘in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval.’ But the state’s real maternal mortality rate is now a matter of debate.” Story by Marissa Evans and Chris Essig

Emails show aide to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner repeatedly used city resources for personal business | The Houston Chronicle

“Darian Ward sent or received roughly 5,000 pages of emails about personal business from her government account over the last four years, some of which dealt with a reality series she was pitching to television networks.” Story by Rebecca Elliott and Mike Morris

As storms batter Texas, billions in state property goes unprotected | The Austin American-Statesman

“You are a responsible property owner, so you make sure to buy insurance to pay for repairs or rebuilding in the event of a disaster. Unless you’re the state of Texas.” Texas leaders erroneously claim that state-owned property is self insured, when in fact Texas is one of the few states that carries no property insurance at all. “Analysts say the unprotected system adopted by state leaders has probably cost taxpayers millions of dollars, the difference between an insurance premium and regularly siphoning general revenue fund money to cover big fixes.” Story by Eric Dexheimer

Rape allegations embroil Kingwood Pines psychiatric hospital in Houston | The Houston Chronicle

“A Houston Chronicle review of medical records, court filings, hospital accreditation reports and records from state and federal regulators, and interviews with parents, portray an understaffed facility that has failed to watch over patients, leaving the most vulnerable among them open to further victimization.” Story by St. John Barned-Smith

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.