in Houston, Texas
Texas Watchdog wins journalism award for coverage of Houston ISD
Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012, 10:46AM CST
By Trent Seibert

Texas Watchdog’s reporting on the Houston Independent School District was given top honors Friday at the First Amendment Awards and Scholarship Dinner hosted by the Fort Worth Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

The prize for best online project of 2011 went to Jennifer Peebles, Mike Cronin and Lynn Walsh for their really fantastic work last year putting a spotlight on the seventh-largest school district in the nation.

Two of those names, of course, have gone on to bigger and better things. Peebles is now on the national investigative desk of the Washington Examiner, and Walsh is the investigative producer for WPTV, the NBC affiliate in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Cronin, though, is still at his desk at Texas Watchdog, poring over open records and pounding away at his keyboard.

But all three had a role in unearthing the conflicts of interest, contract steering and cronyism at HISD -- issues we continue to cover in 2012.

Putting a spotlight on these problems at HISD helped bring about change.

For example:

  • The school district effectively shelved a plan to pay up to $640,000 for health care consulting to a local doctor who had traveled to Costa Rica with a school board member.
  • The school district launched two external audits of its procurement procedures. Both audits found serious problems with transparency.
  • The school board members began to discuss tightening the ethics policies that apply to themselves.
  • The then-school board president publicly said she would recuse herself from voting on contracts involving a company owned and run by one of her best friends, and has indeed recused herself in at least one instance.

And Texas Watchdog’s work also helped voters see how money flowed into HISD trustees’ campaign coffers. Click here for an example.

Other Houston award winners announced at the SPJ awards dinner included Craig Malisow of the Houston Press, as well as Greg Groogan and Mark Muller of KRIV in Houston.

Contact Trent Seibert at or 832-316-4994 or on Twitter at @trentseibertor@texaswatchdog.

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Photo of Texas Watchdog’s SPJ Fort Worth trophy.

Tuesday, 04/17/2012 - 09:52PM

Congratulations for a job well done. We the taxpayers should know what is happening behind closed doors of HISD. You have done a great community service and I thank all of you.

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