Stories From The News

Enterprise Reporting

Lead smelter closed

A battery recycling plant in the middle of a now-booming suburb was closed after two years of coverage I initiated to focus attention on the health risks of lead exposure, especially to children. Top management praised the work of Valerie Wigglesworth and other reporters at a meeting with stock analysts and invited them to be recognized at the company’s annual meeting of shareholders.

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Dallas Housing Authority leadership replaced

Several-dozen stories written by reporter Kim Horner over more than a year chronicled in detail serious deficiencies in the accounting practices of the Dallas Housing Authority. Among the many problems: Rental assistance was sent to 45 people who were dead. Eventually, the agency’s executive director resigned, two members of the agency’s five-person board were replaced, and more than $1 million was returned to the federal government.

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The costs of chronic homelessness

In five lengthy installments published throughout 2009, reporter Kim Horner took a hard look at the struggles of helping the chronically homeless. The project, which received financial support from The Carter Center, reported that Dallas County spends about $50 million a year sheltering, treating and jailing the homeless, with perhaps half of that for the 600 to 1,000 toughest cases. The series won awards from six organizations and was a finalist in the Harry Chapin Media Awards.

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Deals for dealers

A drug task force in Denton County, Texas, worked to get probation for a half-dozen defendants charged with serious crimes in deals designed to keep the task force in business. A former prosecutor admitted, “If we don’t have enough money by the end of the grant year, we’re all out of a job.” The story won reporter Kevin Krause awards from the State Bar of Texas, the Press Club of Dallas, and the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors.

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Charter school operator questioned

Reporter Matthew Haag’s story on questions being raised about a new charter school company was followed by The New York Times. Matthew’s story asked whether Imagine Schools Inc. forces its schools to spend too much money on real estate deals. A planned local school never opened.

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Clergy sex abuse detailed

While a parish priest accused of sexual misconduct awaited reassignment to a new church, reporters Matthew Haag and Sam Hodges went to work chronicling his abuses going back decades. As they reported their story, which included disturbing accounts from several victims, the local bishop announced the offender would not be reassigned.

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Police use of force complaints

In five years, some 11 people sued the police department in Garland, Texas, for excessive use of force. Reporter Richard Abshire, himself a former Dallas Police Department captain, detailed the allegations, described videotapes and updated the status of each case. Taken together, they certainly painted a worrisome picture.

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A year’s worth of murders

Reporters Michael Grabell and Jason Trahan studied all 231 of the homicides reported in Dallas in 2003. They found that most of the victims were young, male, and black or Hispanic. Most knew their killers. And most died because of money or drugs.

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The politics of air pollution

A powerful Congressman’s efforts to exempt his home county from tough new smog rules were detailed by one of the nation’s most respected environmental reporters. Randy Lee Loftis described how Joe Barton’s efforts would benefit two corporations linked to Barton campaign donations.

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The changing classroom

Reporter Andrew Smith asked some tough questions in his look at how immigration was impacting school systems in the Dallas area. Specifically he examined how Hispanic couples starting families sooner and having larger families would increase the urgency to build more schools.

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Feature Stories

Demons in the House

This three-part series recounted the tragic tale of Terry Caffey, who alone escaped a murderous night-time rampage wrought by a group led by his own daughter. Reporter Scott Farwell, later a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, credited me for encouraging him to try again and again to win Caffey’s trust. The series won the award for best feature from the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors and an honorable mention from the American Association of Sunday and Features Editors.

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Orphans return to land they fled

Sam Hodges traveled to Vietnam for his firsthand account of a reunion of some of the 69 children who fled a Cam Ranh City orphanage in 1975. Many landed in Dallas and were raised at Buckner Children’s Home. Sam’s stories vividly and respectfully recounted their evacuation, their reunion, and the lives lived in between.

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Finding love on Death Row

Scott Farwell watched as an attractive 24-year-old German woman talked to her boyfriend, a convicted killer, on Texas’ Death Row. “I have a connection with him,” she said. Scott interviewed other women who had made the trip from Europe to meet inmates in person, and the local woman who gives them a place to stay while they are here.

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Organ donations between strangers

Almost anything can be advertising on the Internet, even the sale of internal organs. Scott Farwell’s look at matchingdonors.com examined the website, the people who used it, and the views of a concerned medical community.

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Born in this country to an illegal immigrant

Telling the many angles of the immigration story was a passion of reporter Dianne Solis. In this story she looked at how children born in this country were without a parent because that parent had been forced to return home.

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Death by heroin

Sarah Aviles had a sad life and an even sadder death at 17 from an overdose of cheese heroin. Of the dozens of young people killed by cheese in Dallas over a several-year period, Sarah stood out. She left a diary, and the family shared it with Dianne Solis. In it Sarah tells of treatment, pens a prayer, and writes her own obituary.

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Life in a homeless camp

As Dallas prepared to open a $21 million center to help house its more than 5,000 homeless, Scott Farwell and Kim Horner took readers to a camp near a liquor store where two-dozen people were living under tarps and in tents. They said, “There’s a thin line between combatants and comrades in these hardscrabble woods.”

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Foreclosures hit home

In Dallas County, the foreclosure crisis was especially damaging to predominantly African-American neighborhoods south of the city, according to an analysis by reporters Roy Appleton and Jake Batsell, who took readers to the suburb that was hardest hit.

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Disease repairs couple’s bond

Reporter Jessica Meyers starts her love story as a woman sings to her husband. Then she tells how the couple has been brought closer by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. “Pete and I have fallen madly in love again,” the woman says. “Go figure.”

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An obituary for a shopping mall

Rather than describing the decline and demolition of a shopping mall that opened in 1959, reporter Karin Anderson detailed its truly grand opening and its proud place in history as the first enclosed, air-conditioned mall in the Southwest.

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News

A bloodbath averted

Five reporters led by Jessica Meyers contributed to coverage of an attempted mass murder outside a suburban police headquarters. The next day Matthew Haag reported how the gunman had contacted a Georgia teenager on Facebook and told her “I enjoy watching people beg for their life.”

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Boycotts of president’s speech to students

Theodore Kim and Matthew Haag were first to report on local school officials bowing to pressure from unhappy parents and not showing President Obama’s September 2009 speech to students. The New York Times, USA Today and many others followed them, and the debate widened. The White House responded to the criticism, agreeing to release the text early and revising an accompanying lesson plan.

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Luck shines on three denied entry to Ireland

Three young Texans who we denied entry to Ireland were the subject of a number of stories by Matthew Haag that gained wider and wider exposure until they were invited back to the country for free. Irish authorities apologized to the men and launched an investigation into why they had been kept out of the country.

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Relief water goes down the drain

When evacuees leave the shelters, what happens to the supplies they haven’t used? In this case, 18 truckloads of canned drinking water went to a city dump. A FEMA official told reporter Margarita Martin-Hidalgo, “We didn’t need it anymore.”

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The doctor who injected patients with jet fuel

Rather than simply reporting on a document filed with the state, Kim Horner took readers inside the offices of Dr. William Rea, who had been accused of bizarre practices including injecting patients with jet fuel and natural gas.

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Why food inspections fail us

After nine people died and more than 600 were sickened across 44 states by contaminated peanut products, reporters Dave Michaels and Sherry Jacobson wrote about how the nation’s system of food inspection is ultimate an honor system, dependent on the integrity of the food companies themselves.

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Four officers wounded in standoff

Sometimes young reporters are flung into difficult assignments. Such was the case when Marissa Alanis and Brandon Formby covered a standoff that wounded three police officers and a state trooper. But their coverage was solid. In his second-day story, old cop Richard Abshire told readers where the young cops went wrong.

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The birth of a toll road

After years of debate, Texas agreed to sell a major road to a private company. For $3 billion, Spanish-owned Cintra would build a state highway and charge people to drive on it. Reporter Tony Hartzel had been following the story for years, even meeting with Cintra officials in Spain. His news story on the announcement showed his grasp of the topic.

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The girlfriend is the last to know

In one of the first interviews arranged on Facebook, a 24-year-old first-grade teacher told reporter Lauren D’Avolio about “one of the worst moments of my life.” She had learned on television that her boyfriend was married and in jail for putting out a contract on his own wife.

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Episcopal rift comes to church

Sam Hodges didn’t focus first on the extremists in the debate between factions of the Episcopal Church. Instead he went to a church, talked to parishioners, and related their dismay at the prospect that many churches in the Fort Worth Diocese would vote the next day to form a new organization with more conservative tenets.

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