Texas Watchdog's own Jennifer Peebles wins SPJ award for public records work

The Texas Watchdog crew is taking a road trip tomorrow to Arlington, Texas, where our very own Jennifer Peebles will be accepting the Open Doors Award from the Fort Worth Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

We're mighty proud of Jennifer. She's the backbone of Texas Watchdog, crunching numbers and cranking out great stories such as this one that examines the stimulus money pouring into Texas. She's also analyzed what the top government brass make in cities across Texas,  such as Amarillo, El Paso and Corpus Christi, and uncovered potential conflicts of interests, detailed in the story she wrote about  legislator-turned-lobbyist Fred Hill.

She's getting the award for work in the field of public records and government transparency.

Specifically, she made Texas lawmakers' ethics forms available to everyone via an interactive online map. These are ethics forms on which legislators are required to disclose  income, investments, gifts and business relationships with lobbyists. These important documents are treasure troves of information. They allow voters and taxpayers to see whether lawmakers have conflicts of interest in the votes they cast.

From Eddye Gallagher, president of the Fort Worth Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists:
The Open Doors Award is presented annually by the Fort Worth Society of Professional Journalists to a citizen leader in the field of open government, someone who is devoted to defending the public's right to know through open meetings and open records.

The Fort Worth SPJ board was impressed with the widespread effect of Jennifer Peebles' work. Not only did she help her own organization, but she also helped journalists and citizens across the state by making public records easily accessible.

 

With these forms now public, everyone can now more easily see whether their lawmakers have a conflicts of interest. We recieved tons of hits on our site after we published the map, and Texans downloaded these now-public documents by the bucketload. Citizens across the state used these documents to uncover conflicts of interest, and we had tips come into Texas Watchdog that we continue to explore.

The fact that Jennifer was able to help Texas Watchdog do this, even though we've been up and running for less than a year, shows that we're fulfilling our mission to make government more transparent and to give citizens the tools to keep government officials' honest.

Thanks, Jennifer, and congrats.