Looking forward to the future of journalism

Insightful FOIA tips from ‘FOIA terrorist’ Jason Leopold at NICAR 2016

Jason Leopold of Vice News

It’s impossible to say enough good things about NICAR 2016, a journalism conference in Denver where more than a thousand attendees honed their data-wrangling skills. NICAR is all about finding good stories in data. But what stood out for me was a talk by investigative reporter Jason Leopold of Vice News about using the Freedom … Read more

Police reports about people who die in custody are late, missing in Texas

Texas Custodial Death Report

With so many controversial deadly force incidents in the news that raise questions about police tactics, wouldn’t it be great to have a reliable system in place to keep track of lethal police encounters to get a handle on how often they happen? The good news is, there’s a statewide system in Texas to track … Read more

How to check safety inspections for any elevator or escalator in Texas

View from the Tower of the Americas

The elevators at the Tower of the Americas in San Antonio look like something out of the Jetsons. Yet every once in a while, the futuristic contraptions get stuck, stranding people hundreds of feet in the air. Last week it happened again. Firefighters rescued 14 people, including two children, who were trapped inside a stalled … Read more

Check out the sponsorship agreements that raise millions for UT Austin athletics

Corporate sponsors at the University of Texas at Austin

It’s no secret that corporate sponsors help fund the richest collegiate athletics program in the country at the University of Texas at Austin. After all, company logos are plastered everywhere at games. But what are the details of those sponsorship agreements? How much does each company spend? And what do they get in return? Related: … Read more

Up in Flames: Flares wasting natural gas in the Eagle Ford Shale

If you drive through the bustling oil patch of the Eagle Ford Shale near San Antonio, it won’t take long to find the surreal sight of flares burning natural gas like perpetual bonfires. Natural gas is cheap. Pipelines are expensive. So instead of collecting the fossil fuel, many oil and gas operators build tall, metallic … Read more

Check out the San Antonio bars and restaurants that raked in the most money in alcohol sales

Last night Jen and I enjoyed a rare date night at one of our favorite restaurants downtown, Bohanan’s, a swanky oasis of cocktails, jazz — and no screaming Tedesco children. If you’ve ever wondered exactly how much money your favorite haunt makes in alcohol sales, there’s now an easy way to find out. Joe Kokenge, … 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.

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

Workers dying on the Eagle Ford Shale

View Workers dying on the Eagle Ford Shale in a larger map The Eagle Ford Shale boom is pumping billions of dollars into South Texas. But it carries a steep cost. Our story tomorrow is about the workers who have suffered horrific, preventable deaths at drilling sites. You can see where employees have died and … Read more

Everything you need to know about DPS, police pursuits and why troopers shoot at vehicles

Last week, Hidalgo County District Attorney René Guerra asked the Texas Department of Public Safety to temporarily suspend its practice of using airborne snipers to fire at fleeing vehicles. Guerra made the request after DPS trooper Miguel Avila, riding in a helicopter, fired at a pickup truck he thought was carrying a drug shipment. Actually, the truck was full of immigrants suspected of entering the U.S. illegally. Two Guatemalan immigrants were killed.

One of the most difficult and controversial challenges for police officers is chasing a fleeing vehicle. Police are supposed to catch criminals. But a lot can go wrong in a high-speed chase — especially in the deadly cat-and-mouse game DPS troopers play with drug smugglers in Texas border counties.

DPS Director Mike McCraw has asked the FBI to investigate the shooting. But there are already resources available to the public that show why an incident like this near the border was probably bound to happen.

Smugglers recovering drugs from the Rio Grande River
Smugglers recovering drugs from the Rio Grande River (Source: Texas DPS)
Two years ago, we found and wrote about a little-known resource: A DPS database that keeps track of every vehicle pursuit troopers are involved in. The database is available to the public through the state’s open-records law, and I teamed up with Brandi Grissom at the Texas Tribune to get a copy of the data and analyze it.

We received data for nearly 5,000 chases that occurred from January 2005 to July 2010. The database was packed with details about every DPS pursuit in Texas, showing factors like how each chase started, how it ended, and how many people were injured or killed.

One thing that jumped out at us was the high number of pursuits in Hidalgo County on the Mexican border. Between 2005 and July 2010, troopers in other Texas counties chased vehicles, on average, about 20 times. In Hidalgo County, DPS troopers chased vehicles about 30 times more often — 656 pursuits. That’s far and away the most in Texas:

Read moreEverything you need to know about DPS, police pursuits and why troopers shoot at vehicles

Road rage in Texas: Find accidents in your neighborhood with this interactive map

Full map Crash with one or more injuries. Crash with no injuries. Braylon Nelson is one of the sweetest kids you’ll ever meet. Like any other 2-year-old boy with an insatiable curiosity, he asks a million questions and loves stories. When I visited him, a 400-page book of fairy tales was on his bed near … Read more