The Texas Managing Editors association announced last weekend that two projects from the ProPublica and Texas Tribune investigative unit won first-place awards, and two others were honored. This is the second year that work from nonprofit newsrooms was eligible for the awards, and the second consecutive year that the unit received the association’s highest honor for investigative reporting.
A collaboration that examined Operation Lone Star, a multibillion-dollar, taxpayer-funded border initiative, won first place for Star Investigative Report of the Year. Through dogged reporting, Perla Trevizo and Lomi Kriel from the ProPublica-Tribune team, and Andrew Rodriguez Calderón and Keri Blakinger from The Marshall Project exposed that the governor’s claims about the border initiative’s success were based on shifting metrics that included crimes with no connection to the border and drug seizures and arrests from counties that received no additional funding or resources from the operation.
Tribune reporter Jolie McCullough’s work showed, for the first time, how misdemeanor trespassing charges against migrants entering the country quickly became the largest share of the operation’s arrests despite Gov. Greg Abbott’s claims that it was capturing dangerous criminals.
Meanwhile, Tribune reporter James Barragán teamed up with Davis Winkie of the Military Times to examine Abbott’s deployment of National Guard members to the border. Their deeply sourced reporting identified a series of problems, including delayed payments to National Guard members, a shortage of critical equipment and poor living conditions. They obtained a leaked survey that showed wide dissatisfaction among National Guard members assigned to the operation.
Trevizo and Marilyn Thompson of ProPublica also delved into how Abbott’s decadeslong efforts to amass power culminated with the launch of the operation, at times allowing him to circumvent the GOP-controlled state Legislature and override local officials.
The Department of Justice has launched an investigation into allegations of civil rights abuses that had come to light through Operation Lone Star reporting.
“The Uvalde school shooting and the fight for transparency,” a collaboration by ProPublica, The Texas Tribune and The Washington Post, tied for first place in the Freedom of Information category. In the series of stories, ProPublica and the Tribune detailed efforts by the organizations to obtain important public documents, scrutinize the state police response and get access to records of more than 20 emergency calls and dozens of hours of conversations between police and dispatchers that laid bare the increasing sense of urgency and desperation conveyed by children and teachers. The organizations then teamed up with the Post on an investigation that for the first time showed communication lapses and muddled lines of authority among medical responders, which further hampered efforts to get treatment for victims after police finally confronted the shooter at Robb Elementary School.
Another investigation by ProPublica and the Tribune that found apparent violations of a long-standing federal law barring churches and nonprofits from directly or indirectly participating in political campaigns, and the piece won second place in the Star Online Package of the Year.
A first-of-its-kind analysis by ProPublica and the Tribune won third place in the Star Investigative Report of the Year and third place in the Freedom of Information category. The investigation revealed that Army soldiers accused of sexual assault are less than half as likely to be locked up ahead of trial as those accused of offenses like drug use and distribution, disobeying an officer or burglary.
Learn more about the Texas Managing Editors Awards.