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2017 General Excellence in Online Journalism, Small Newsroom finalist

The Texas Tribune

About the Project

In the last year, The Texas Tribune’s all-star cast of journalists combined unmatched daily reporting with ambitious investigative work that brought vital context to Texans on the issues affecting their lives.

Our biggest-in-the-nation statehouse bureau laid claim to four GOP presidential candidates, and newsrooms statewide embedded our election scoreboards and results widgets. We embarked on a raucous legislative session featuring fights over “sanctuary” cities and which bathrooms transgender kids could use. Our reporting plumped up the pages and airwaves of dozens of newspapers and TV stations statewide, in addition to reaching new audiences through content partnerships with The Washington Post and Reveal.

We also found time to get experimental with our storytelling, rolling out ambitious investigations that took advantage of new platforms and partners, live events and emerging technology:

  • Hell and High Water, an interactive mapping project produced with ProPublica, simulated just how devastating a direct-hit hurricane would be to lives and industry in Houston. The investigation, which prompted action from Congress, was paired with a community event in the Houston Ship Channel and an investigative radio show on Reveal. It also inspired a University of Southern California team to launch a virtual-reality experience.
  • In our Sold Out project, we revealed how state leaders’ decades-long crusade against child sex-trafficking has largely failed — and how Texas’ child welfare system is actually worsening the crisis. Our investigation featured four teenagers tangled in the sex trade, held elected officials accountable for their inaction, and revealed the behind-the-scenes tactics of the pimps calling the shots. We launched a partnership with Cosmo.com to bring these stories to 1 million new readers.
  • Our Bordering on Insecurity project got past the rhetoric on the divisive issues of immigration and border security. Through extensive travel, reporting, data analysis and mini-documentaries that aired across 22 PBS stations, our series shed important light on why undocumented immigrants come to the U.S., and how Americans are contributing to it.

The Tribune also held the line as the state’s government watchdog. Texas’ top liquor regulator resigned after our reporting revealed she and her colleagues were partying on the state’s dime, taking luxury trips to exotic locales and claiming “hazard pay” while on junkets in Hawaii.

And we doubled down on audience engagement, holding 50 live (and livestreamed) events, hosting 3,200 attendees at our Texas Tribune Festival, and luring more than 100,000 subscribers to our newsletters.

We kicked off a multi-day symposium on race the weekend before inauguration, featuring civil rights activists and law enforcement. And we hired a “community reporter” to better listen to our readers and report on issues of concern to them.

On the audience front, we rolled out an aggressive social strategy — using Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP, optimizing video for social, and streaming newsroom interviews and reporting in the field via Facebook live.