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Over the past five months, Texas Tribune journalists have worked around the clock to report on the 2023 legislative session, laws that were enacted and the people who are making big decisions that affect our readers and our state. We were created to help Texans understand moments like this. Between the budget discussions, the policy debates, the expulsion of a House member and the impeachment of an attorney general, Texas government has kept us busy, and we’ve risen to the challenge of chronicling it and explaining it.
Since our founding in 2009, The Texas Tribune has covered seven legislative sessions. We have used, and will continue to use, every storytelling method available, including stories, live events, videos, podcasts, photography, SMS texting, data visualizations, TV interviews and more to provide clarity and context to what is happening under the Pink Dome and why.
So far this year, our newsroom has published around 400 stories dedicated to bringing Texans closer to the inner workings of the 2023 legislative session. In the past few months alone, we’ve tracked the progress of major bills as they worked their way through the Texas legislature and reported on lawmakers’ actions on climate, energy, health care, public education, colleges and universities, gun policy, local governments and the LGBTQ community for our readers.
The impact of our journalism shows up in ways big and small. Our reporting was cited numerous times on the floors of the Texas House and Senate this year, and in several instances our reporting directly influenced lawmakers.
When Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, began his second term as speaker of the state House in January, he cited the Tribune’s reporting, which showed that 60% of rural Texas hospitals no longer deliver babies and that mothers in rural areas now face hourlong drives for basic services. This example is not an outlier — leaders of this state read the Tribune because our nonpartisan reporting helps them stay informed. In turn, our reporters across the state — in Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, Lubbock, Lufkin, San Antonio and soon Midland — make sure that the vast variety of perspectives and experiences across this great state are seen and heard by those who make policy in Austin.
Just last week, the Legislature pulled millions of dollars in funding for child-fingerprinting kits sold by a Waco-based company operated by the former NFL player Kenny Hansmire, after the Tribune and ProPublica revealed his troubled business dealings spanning more than 25 years. Numerous Texas law enforcement agencies had told us they couldn’t recall any examples in which the kits helped them find a runaway or kidnapped child.
Last month, the Legislature passed a bipartisan bill that closes a background check loophole that had allowed gun sales to people who had been involuntarily hospitalized as juveniles for mental illness. The Tribune and ProPublica had reported that Texas failed to report such hospitalizations to the federal firearm background check system, created under a 2009 state law. Following our investigation, the Texas Judicial Council, which monitors and recommends reforms to the state judiciary, and the original author of the law, called on lawmakers to close the loophole.
We make time to listen deeply to the stories of ordinary Texans. This spring, we reported on a young Texas mother’s struggle to make ends meet with three children. Following publication, a flood of readers reached out to our newsroom asking how they could help support Destiny and her young family, and we passed along those offers. One noted, “I know $100 isn't a lot to most people, but it’s a lot to me, and I’d like to share it with her.”
In April, we covered a committee hearing in which dozens of Chinese Americans showed up to speak about a bill regulating Chinese-owned social media companies. One of the attendees told our reporter later: “The details in your article make me feel you were there and you saw us. I simply want to thank you and give you a hug.”
And we seek opportunities to break down the complex workings of the Legislature for everyday Texans. After we published our explainer on Texas’ complicated plan to reform its electricity market, we received many notes of thanks, including from one reader saying, “I just wanted to share that this piece was so great — it really helped me to understand the dynamics at play here. I found it was balanced, compelling, and educational.”
The Tribune’s model of covering state government has been so influential that it’s helped to spawn similar newsrooms around the country, including CalMatters, Mississippi Today and the Flatwater Free Press in Nebraska. New York Focus, a new publication focused on holding state lawmakers in Albany to account, cited the Tribune as the model for the work it’s trying to do. We’re also proud to be a partner of States Newsroom, which works to ensure that nonprofit, public-interest journalism exists in all 50 state capitals.
While our work goes into overdrive for five months every two years, rest assured that during the other 19 months, we are continuing to cover the state in all its richness and its complexity, the progress and yes, also the pain. This work is free to read on our site and free for other media outlets across Texas to republish and share with their loyal audiences — in fact we’ve experienced a substantial increase in republishing over the last two years, increasing access to our coverage around the state.
If you value the work that we do on behalf of the 30 million people who call Texas home, please consider supporting our work and joining our community of members who make the Tribune’s work possible.
Go behind the headlines with newly announced speakers at the 2023 Texas Tribune Festival, in downtown Austin from Sept. 21-23. Join them to get their take on what’s next for Texas and the nation.