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IRVING — The Texas Tribune received its first-ever award Saturday from the Texas Association of Managing Editors, which represents newsrooms across the Lone Star State. This was the first year in which the Tribune and other online, nonprofit newsrooms were eligible to nominate work for the awards.
The Tribune took first place for Star Investigative Report of the Year for “Invisible Threat: Carbon Monoxide’s Unchecked Toll,” done in collaboration with ProPublica and NBC News. The winners were Perla Trevizo, Lexi Churchill and Ren Larson of the Tribune and Mike Hixenbaugh and Suzy Khimm of NBC News.
The project revealed that the winter storm that hit Texas in February 2021 unleashed the worst carbon monoxide catastrophe in the nation’s recent history. More than 1,400 people sought emergency care and at least 17 died from inhaling the colorless, odorless gas after desperate residents fired up portable generators, grills, fireplaces and car engines to keep their families warm. Last year, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a bill that will require carbon monoxide alarms in many homes built after 2022, though lawmakers say additional actions will be needed.
“A jaw-dropping and sweeping investigation that shows failures at multiple levels with tragic results,” the judges wrote. The project was also recognized this year in the Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism, given by the Association of Health Care Journalists.
In addition to the award, Tribune journalism was recognized by the Texas Association of Managing Editors in several other categories:
- Second place in the award for Star Reporter of the Year, for Jolie McCullough and her articles on the migrant criminal justice system along the border. “The reporter went well beyond the talking points and partisan rhetoric to understand how Gov. Abbott’s catch-and-jail program was working — or rather, how it wasn’t,” the judges wrote. “The dysfunction, confusion and cost involved could easily have gone unnoticed without McCullough’s work — and there are examples of how this reporting forced some changes, including efforts to more quickly get attorneys to those jailed. The anecdote about using taxpayer money to put up fences specifically to catch people bypassing them was one I’m sure many readers paused to reflect on.”
- Second place in the freedom of information award, for the coverage of the carbon monoxide deaths.
- Second place in the award for online package of the year, for the carbon monoxide coverage.
- Second place in the award for infographics, for coverage by Carla Astudillo and Karen Brooks Harper on COVID-19 and nursing home deaths. “The chart breakdown as a lead in is very effective in establishing the rest of the piece, as well as the smaller detailed charts that help to define the timeframe for each segment,” wrote one judge, Travis Hartman, data visualization developer at Reuters.
- Third place in the award for community service, for our coverage of redistricting, by Carla Astudillo, Neelam Bohra, Mandi Cai, Kalley Huang, Jason Kao and Alexa Ura. “Exceptional and comprehensive investigation into the impact of redistricting,” the judges wrote. “Loved the broad look across race, geography and politics of bias that undergird the process.”
- Third place in the award for team effort, for our coverage of redistricting. “A great job of using words and graphics to explain a subject that is so difficult yet central to our democracy,” the judges wrote. “Yet for all its complexity and detail, the overall coverage by the Texas Tribune could be summed up pretty simply: Minorities propelled Texas’ explosive growth over the last decade. But when the smoke of redistricting clears, those same people will have less representation in the halls of power. The best parts were when the reporters took us into the communities that were getting split apart to show the people who live in them and how their voices would be weakened.”
- Third place in the video award, for coverage of rural broadband, by Verónica G. Cárdenas, Justin Dehn, Alana Rocha, Eric Vasquez and Todd Wiseman. “Broadband internet doesn’t sound like the most visually exciting story to tell, but getting on the ground in communities that don’t have it really brought this video to life, explaining and showing the impact on people struggling in the midst of a pandemic,” wrote one judge, Michael Zamora, visual editor and video producer at NPR.
- Third place in the award for feature writing, for Emma Platoff’s story on a Panhandle cattle rancher’s death from COVID-19, at the age of 91.
- Third place in the award for infographics, for coverage by Emily Albracht, Mandi Cai and Chris Essig of the deadly toll in Texas in the pandemic’s first year.
- Honorable mention in the award for general column writing, for Ross Ramsey’s analyses of political fallout from the winter storms and failures to secure the electric grid.
The Tribune competed in Class 4A (large newsrooms). A full list of the awards can be found here.
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