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The Texas Tribune has been awarded a major statewide journalism prize, the Charles E. Green Award for Star Investigative Report of the Year, for our coverage of Operation Lone Star, Gov. Greg Abbott’s controversial deployment of the Texas National Guard in the region near the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The Texas Tribune again demonstrates the value of independent journalism with its effort to bring accountability to the governor’s ballyhooed campaign against illegal immigration,” the judges wrote in their citation for the award, part of the annual honors given by Texas Managing Editors. “Reporters found that evidence to back up the governor’s well-oiled political polemic on immigrant crime was sparse, pulling in data on crimes unrelated to immigrants and arrests far from the border, and shifting the metrics when pressed. They showed how a new category of misdemeanor trespassing arrests of nonviolent border crossers became the principal evidence of the impact of the multi-million dollar effort.”
The reporting on Operation Lone Star was carried out by Perla Trevizo and Lomi Kriel, who work with the Texas Tribune-ProPublica joint investigative team; James Barragán and Jolie McCullough, who cover politics and criminal justice, respectively, for the Tribune; Marilyn W. Thompson, a journalist at ProPublica; Davis Winkie, a reporter for Military Times; and Andrew Rodriguez Calderón and Keri Blakinger of The Marshall Project. (Blakinger is now a reporter at the Los Angeles Times.)
In addition, the Tribune, with ProPublica, The Washington Post and independent journalist Jason Buch, tied with journalists from the Austin American-Statesman for the annual Freedom of Information award, in the category of large newsrooms, for their work to obtain government records surrounding the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on May 24, 2022 — the second-deadliest shooting at an elementary, middle or high school in the history of the United States. The Tribune, the Post and ProPublica collaborated on a major investigation in December about the chaotic medical response to the Uvalde shooting, revealing that two shooting victims who still had a pulse when they were taken out of the school might have had a chance of survival if crucial medical resources had been immediately available.
“An incredible effort, the dogged work of reporters and editors across these newsrooms helped illuminate one of the most horrific events in recent memory and helped the public to understand the failings at every level,” the judges wrote in their citation.
Alexa Ura, who joined the Tribune in 2013 and is now the most senior reporter on staff, covering demographics, won the award for feature writing, in the category of large newsrooms, for a story on the dismantling of Precinct 3 by the Galveston County Commissioners’ Court. The precinct, which for 30 years was a visible symbol of African American political power, was split up and became part of two majority-white districts. The article was a vivid illustration of the use of redistricting to dilute the voting power of minority groups, even though such groups now collectively make up a majority of the Texas population.
“A well-written piece rich in history tells an important story — distinguishing it from much feature writing — of disenfranchisement of voters,” the judges wrote in their citation, adding praise for images by photojournalist Annie Mulligan that accompanied the article.
Tribune journalists were also finalists or honorable mentions for several other awards, all in the category of large newsrooms:
• The Tribune’s staff placed second for Star Breaking News Report of the Year, for our coverage of the Uvalde shooting and its aftermath;
• Jeremy Schwartz, Jessica Priest and Perla Trevizo of the Tribune-ProPublica team, and Chris Morran of ProPublica, placed second for Star Online Package of the Year, for their work on political activities of Texas churches and ministers, and the staff of the Tribune was an honorable mention in the same category for our coverage of the Uvalde tragedy;
• Yuriko Schumacher placed second place for infographics, for her work on water demand in Texas; and Carla Astudillo, Caroline Covington and Eric Lau received an honorable mention in the same category, for their work on fundraising by last year’s nominees for governor;
• Vianna Davila, Lexi Churchill and Ren Larson, of the Texas Tribune-ProPublica team, placed third for the award for Star Investigative Report of the Year and the Freedom of Information Award, for their coverage of the military justice system (Larson is now a journalist at The Assembly, a digital magazine based in North Carolina);
• Shelby Tauber placed third for feature photography, for coverage of harm-reduction efforts in response to the fentanyl crisis;
• Eli Hartman, an independent photojournalist, received an honorable mention for news photography for coverage of the Odessa water crisis;
• Uriel J. García and Jinitzail Hernández tied with Statesman journalists for an honorable mention for video, for coverage of the history of Mexican American political activism in Uvalde;
• Erin Douglas received an honorable mention for specialty reporting, for her coverage of climate change in Texas;
• Eleanor Klibanoff received an honorable mention for Star Reporter of the Year, for stories on the state’s threat to investigate the families of transgender children for child abuse, on how the far right has shaped Texas’ response to mass shootings, and on the 19th century origins of Texas’ ban on abortion.
Andy Alford, who is the Tribune’s director of editorial recruitment, training and career development, is serving a two-year term as president of Texas Managing Editors, which includes top editors from newspapers and nonprofit newsrooms from around the state. Last year was the first year in which nonprofit news organizations like the Tribune were invited to be full members of the association and to enter the awards.
The awards were presented Saturday in Galveston during the association’s annual convention. The awards are judged by volunteer panels of journalists from across the country, none of whom work in Texas.
We can’t wait to welcome you Sept. 21-23 to the 2023 Texas Tribune Festival, our multiday celebration of big, bold ideas about politics, public policy and the day’s news — all taking place just steps away from the Texas Capitol. When tickets go on sale in May, Tribune members will save big. Donate to join or renew today.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune