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2016 General Excellence in Online Journalism, Small Newsroom winner

The Texas Tribune

Judges comments

The Texas Tribune’s wide variety of storytelling formats include innovative 3-D mapping, immersive audio, Facebook Instant Articles, and digital documentaries.

About the Project

In the last year, The Texas Tribune’s all-star cast of journalists swung for the fences — and repeatedly knocked it out of the park.

Politics remained our bread and butter: Our biggest-in-the-nation statehouse bureau laid claim to four GOP presidential candidates with deep Texas ties — and one, Ted Cruz, who tried to go the distance. Our primary night election scoreboard and results widgets were embedded by digital news operations across the country. And our comprehensive politics and policy reporting plumped up the pages and airwaves of dozens of newspapers and TV stations statewide, in addition to reaching new audiences by way of our content partnership with The Washington Post.

But we also found time to get experimental with our storytelling, rolling out ambitious investigations and creative projects that took advantage of new platforms and partners, live events and emerging technology.

A sampling:

  • Hell and High Water, an interactive mapping project produced in partnership with ProPublica, used 3-D browser technology and virtual reality to simulate just how devastating a direct-hit hurricane would be to lives and industry in Houston. The investigation, which prompted immediate action from members of Congress, was paired with a community event in the Houston Ship Channel and an hour-long investigative radio show on the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal.
  • Starstruck, our first immersive multimedia experience, combined gorgeous timelapse photography and take-you-there audio to produce a deep-dive into the secretive commercial space exploration industry in Texas.
  • Reporters interviewed dozens of elected officials and scoured hundreds of hours of legislative footage to produce “God and Governing,” a five-part online documentary series on how Texas lawmakers’ faith drives their decision-making. The LBJ Presidential Library co-hosted a “God and Governing” symposium in conjunction with the Tribune project, and we produced a 30-minute news magazine for public television that aired on stations nationwide.
  • Our Price of Admission project illuminated Texas’ complicated history with affirmative action and documented the glaring and heartbreaking disparities between public high schools mere miles apart. The investigation included an interactive that compared UT-Austin admission by Texas high school, a Reveal radio segment and a well-attended symposium on Texas’ affirmative action rules at a local community college.
  • Paid to Prosecute, an investigation in partnership with the Austin American-Statesman, revealed a troubling financial arrangement between the state’s largest workers’ compensation insurer and the local district attorneys’ office. State and local officials unraveled the deal — which had created a private justice system that subjected many unsuspecting blue-collar workers to lawsuits — as a result of our reporting.

All the while, the Tribune maintained its commitment to data journalism: Our news apps team produced countless visualizations, upgraded our massive Public Schools Explorer and rolled out Faces of Death Row, a tool to track the nation’s most active execution chamber.

We doubled down on audience expansion efforts, holding 50 live (and livestreamed) events, hosting 3,200 attendees at our annual Texas Tribune Festival, and luring more than 100,000 subscribers to our suite of politics and policy newsletters.

We spent more time engaging with our readers online and in the comments, converting them and many subjects of our news stories into contributors to TribTalk, our popular op-ed site.

And we rolled out an aggressive social media strategy, prepping our content for Facebook Instant Articles, optimizing our video for social, and drawing in thousands of new viewers by streaming newsroom interviews and reporting in the field live on Facebook.