2019 Sports, Health and Wellness, Small Newsroom winner

Titletown, TX: All We Got

About the Project

Season 3 of McClatchy Studios and The Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s acclaimed weekly docuseries, Titletown, TX: All We Got takes an exclusive look at the Gainesville State School’s football program and the community of mentors that offers a chance at redemption through discipline, teamwork and high school football. Two producers from McClatchy Studios spent four months embedded at the maximum security state-run juvenile prison, earning the trust of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department faculty, staff and incarcerated teenagers to tell their stories both on and off the field.

Senior Producer and director Jessica Koscielniak was tipped off to the story while producing the first season of “Titletown, TX” and negotiated exclusive access to document the football program for the duration of the season. Both Koscielniak and producer Brittany Peterson worked tirelessly to document first-year head coach Coach Roy Burns and his players on and off the field. Each week the pair had to roll with the myriad security, personnel and behavioral challenges of this complex story in a state-run juvenile lock-up.

The series, which explores the cultural and socioeconomic realities that many of the Gainesville students grew up with in the urban areas of Texas, also chronicles the highs and lows of a football season – including catastrophic injuries, a game-ending brawl, a sexual assault scandal on campus and a late push for the playoffs. Rookie head coach Roy Burns, whose goal is to help the teens break their lifestyles of crime, must balance the frustration of losing with his ability to be the positive influence these kids so desperately need in their lives.

In addition to the episodes, Peterson led an ambitious split screen Virtual Reality production that juxtaposed the game day experience for a student at the Gainesville State School with that of an opposing student playing for a free world team. The story climaxes when those students – also the team captains – meet at midfield for the coin toss.

Titletown, TX attracted more than 1.6M views through its initial 13 episodes run on Facebook Watch, the vast majority coming from viewers in the state of Texas. Senior Audience Editor Sarah Whitmire lead an ambitious effort providing 30 pieces of original video content for viewers to engage with on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Titletown, TX: All We Got is a series about redemption, hope, race, socioeconomic status and criminal justice – told through the powerful lens of football in Texas. The result is a fascinating insider’s look at young (mostly minority) men already in the “school to prison pipeline,” and their desperate attempt to break that chain of cyclical poverty, crime and violence. After viewing the trailer for the series one of the students admitted, “You told our story better than we could have.”



Sarah Whitmire accepted the 2019 award for Sports, Small/Medium Newsroom. (Video by Aiyana Ishmael, ONA19 HBCU Fellow)