The 2022 stories that taught us about Texas
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Throughout the year, our weekday newsletter, The Brief, strives to highlight great, relevant and crucial Texas stories in our “Best of the Rest” section. Here, from The Texas Tribune staff, are stories we wish we had — but are glad we were told.
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A year of child “protection” in Texas by Christopher Hooks, Texas Monthly (July 2022)
Texas, a friend used to say, is hard on women and little things. Christopher Hooks described the lukewarm response from state officials to calls for help, from students at Robb Elementary in Uvalde to exhausted school teachers. Hooks paints a picture of a state government that has normalized the suffering of the most vulnerable Texans. He calls it “a tale as old as time: the pain of one generation turns into the pain of another.”
The untold story of the Texas island family that took over the US Capitol by Robert Draper, Texas Monthly (January 2023)
Published on the Texas Monthly website in late December 2022, Robert Draper’s chronicle tells the story of the Munns, who moved to Texas from Wisconsin in 2017 and ended up in the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.
“How six members of the same family — Tom and his wife, Dawn, along with four of their eight children — were so consumed by Donald Trump’s baseless claims about the 2020 election that they drove 1,600 miles from a small Texas town to help. disrupt the peaceful transfer of power?” Draper asks. “It was, as the federal judge presiding over their case would later say with stoic understatement, ‘an enigma.'” The story encapsulates the distortions of fact, responsibility and patriotism that have come to define January 6. Some will see in the family a history of neglect and lies; others, a narrative of persecution and tragedy.
Rudder Association: A deep dive into conservative alumni group with plans to ‘turn Aggie into Aggieland’ by Nathan Varnell and Casey Stavenhage, The Battalion (March 2022)
Our call to student journalists everywhere—doing great and essential work—comes through a story from Texas A&M’s student newspaper, Batalion, covering the Rudder Society, a group of influential alumni and alumni who aim to instill principles conservatory in College. Station campus through their connections and influence. Despite innocuous public messaging that says the goal is to “return Aggie to Aggieland,” the group plans to take over, compete or silence A&M institutions, including the Battalion itself, that don’t align with its political vision.
A mother’s campaign to ban library books has divided a Texas town — and her family by Mike Hixenbaugh, NBC News (August 2022)
Mike Hixenbaugh tells the story of Weston Brown, who was cut off from his conservative Granbury family after coming out four years ago. His mother, Monica Brown, is an outspoken leader of an effort to ban LGBTQ-themed books in Granbury ISD. This story, co-published by NBC News, ProPublica and The Texas Tribune, examines what is lost as the culture wars overwhelm family ties. The generational divide looms large here, prompting us to consider what is worth fighting for and what is best left alone, as competing political and religious beliefs about America’s identity and defining characteristics hang over heads of households everywhere.
How Texas Failed to Prevent One of the Nation’s Deadliest Prison Breaks from Keri Blakinger and John Tedesco, The Marshall Project and Houston Chronicle (December 2022)
“‘Some of this is the result of the state trying to do mass incarceration for the bottom dollar,'” said Rep. Gene Wu, a Houston Democrat. “When your employees are some of the highest paid and worst employees in the country, it’s no surprise that you’re going to have people who aren’t doing their job 100% of the time.”
Whether it’s public health, public education, or something else, one of Texas’ defining traits is frugality in the face of systemic problems that affect some worse than others. But rarely does this neglect have such direct, dire consequences for one Mark Collins and his four grandchildren, who were killed by a Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison bus escapee. A series of errors in judgment, neglected needs and failed preventative measures — not unlike the circumstances at Robb Elementary — contributed to the preventable deaths in Texas. This rinse-repeat pattern of community trauma serving as an impetus for change leaves one wondering if this will ever be enough: The story culminates with an enraged Texan asking, “What good is the change of some rules and regulations when they are not following them to begin with?”
The way we pronounce Uvalde says a lot about the power of the language in mixed communities by Isabella Gomez Sarmiento, National Public Radio (June 2022)
There aren’t many stories that explore the complex set of decisions that lead to the publication of a story, but NPR’s Isabella Gomez Sarmiento breaks the mold by explaining how language, journalism and local context intersect to answer what seems like a question of simply, “How do we pronounce Uvalde?” While we’re all probably familiar with the prevailing English pronunciation, it’s much more complicated for Uvalde’s Latino residents. Sarmiento’s story is a nod to the nuance that’s often lost when national publications have to parachute into a place where they have little or no connection, and shows journalism’s heightened awareness of our relationships with communities that don’t usually get our collective attention unless something terrible has happened.
Texas kids struggling with mental health, self-harm as school starts by Sarah Self-Walbrick, Texas Tech Public Media (August 2022)
Note: This story contains references to self-harm, depression and anxiety which may be triggering for some.
Sarah Self-Walbrick wrote a shorter piece about the difficult experiences of Texas students returning to school. It clears up some potentially misunderstood notions about what contributes to self-harm, while highlighting young people and their lived experiences in a careful, cautionary tone that respects their complicated existence during a very tumultuous time for everyone.
Faced with a two-decade wait, these families had to leave Texas to receive disability services by Alex Stuckey, Houston Chronicle (August 2022)
The Houston Chronicle spoke with six families who were forced to leave Texas to get their children the help the state failed to provide. While they didn’t want to go, they felt like they didn’t have a choice, a reasonable decision in light of other Houston Chronicle reports showing that Texas can barely serve a fifth of its estimated 500,000 residents living with intellectuals. and development. disabilities. This story fits into a mosaic of other stories, some from the Tribune or other publications, that show how Texas forces some of its most marginalized citizens to travel long distances to get the life they want in the state.
Disclosure: Texas Monthly has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a full list of them here.