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Headliners Foundation Announces Showcase Award Winners

Journalists Awarded for High-Impact Texas Journalism

Headliners Foundation of Texas

Austin,Texas (PR MediaRelease) March 24, 2017

On March 22, 2017 the Headliners Foundation of Texas announced that the Houston Chronicle’s Brian Rosenthal is the winner of the Foundation’s Showcase Gold  Award for Enterprise and Innovation in Journalism for his series, “Denied: How Texas Keeps Tens of Thousands of Children Out of Special Education.” This is the second consecutive year in which Rosenthal and the Chronicle have won the overall competition.

Rosenthal’s significant investigative work uncovered a hidden policy within the Texas Education Agency (TEA) that effectively capped the number of students offered special education services in Texas. The seven-part series, along with follow up articles and numerous interviews, puts faces of children on the broken system and describes how the policy negatively impacted students, parents, and even school districts. Legislators and TEA officials were quick to end the policy practice as the findings were revealed and reported by Rosenthal.

This is the fourth year for the Showcase Awards, which pays $2,000 for the top prize. The Foundation received 40 entries for 2016, 36 of which were selected for final consideration. The winners and other entries can be viewed at the Foundation’s website, “Wow – what an outstanding entry,” said Showcase judge Nann Goplerud. “It clearly shows how Brian’s extensive research, compelling writing and a deep concern for the state’s children with disabilities have resulted in a significant impact on public policy. Brian’s work reveals the very best in journalist practices — hard work, curiosity and commitment to finding truth. This project was the judges’ clear choice for the Showcase Gold award.  Brian Rosenthal’s reporting truly exemplifies excellence in journalism.”

The Foundation also announced three Showcase Silver Award winners ($1,000 to each):

  • The staff of NBC 5/KXAS-TV for its work on “Big Buses, Bigger Problems: Investigating Dallas County Schools.” The station’s investigative work caught hundreds of Dallas County school bus drivers on camera, endangering student passengers by running red traffic signals, speeding, and driving recklessly. Compounding the problems already revealed, a further investigation found Dallas County Schools executives using taxpayer dollars to pay bus drivers’ traffic tickets and not enforcing disciplinary measures against the employees. As a result of the multiple stories broadcast on this issue, more than a dozen bus drivers were fired or suspended, and the Dallas Independent School District ordered a comprehensive review of bus operations to address the concerns.
  • Jeremy Schwartz and Rodolfo Gonzalez of the Austin American-Statesman for their investigative work on “Unlivable: How Texas Fails Farmworkers.” The story focuses on the poor living conditions of Texas migratory farmworkers, who by state law are to be housed in facilities that meet basic health and safety standards. Through numerous interviews with farmworkers, Schwartz and Gonzalez found deplorable living conditions, along with little or no investigation by the state agency required to perform inspections of housing operations. As a result, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs made immediate changes to its policies, and legislators formed work groups and filed bills to address the condition of citizens in unlivable conditions.
  • The Texas Tribune and ProPublica for their combined work on “Hell and High Water.” The story uses innovative computer simulations, photography, and storytelling to demonstrate how the Houston area is presumably unprepared for catastrophic weather events such as hurricanes or flooding. As a result of the interactive story, federal legislation is on the fast-track, and parts of the legislation have already been signed into law. The COAST Act (Corps’ Obligation to Assist in Safeguarding Texas) will provide funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop a comprehensive coastal protection system for the Houston area.

The Foundation’s judges awarded honorable mentions to:

  • The Dallas Morning News, for “Texas’ CPS Crisis”. The investigative series highlights continued failings at the state’s child protection agency to include child deaths, overdue casework, children sleeping in state government offices for lack of places to shelter them, and high turnover due to low salaries and high caseloads. The series has prompted emergency legislation to overhaul the state agency.
  • The Victoria Advocate, for “Minds That Matter.” The year-long project documents the critical need for mental health services in the Victoria County jail, along with better training for officers working with this population before they are part of the criminal justice system. The series has prompted round-the-clock psychiatric care capability through the privatization of medical care at the Victoria County Jail, along with a legislative appropriation request to fund a community program that would divert mental health patients from jails.

In addition to the $5,000 in award funds to Showcase winners, the Foundation will also select 11 Charles E. Green contest winners, and present nearly $30,000 to the Green and division winners selected by the Associated Press broadcast and print partners for outstanding work in 2016 by journalists at Texas media outlets. The Green newspaper awards will be announced March 24-26 in ceremonies in Houston with Foundation partner, the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors. The broadcast winners will be announced in May at the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters conference in San Antonio. Additionally, the winners of the Showcase and Green awards will be honored at the Foundation’s Mike Quinn Awards luncheon Sept. 16 at the Headliners Club in Austin.

The Showcase Awards for Enterprise and Innovation in Journalism is the only statewide competition for Texas-based news media that judges entries across all platforms – digital, broadcast, magazine, and newspaper – on their significant impact on government, public policy or the conduct of a business, nonprofit or other organization. All professional media were eligible to submit entries to the contest, including magazines, web-only publishers, and even small, specialized news providers.

Interviews with several of this year’s winners will be posted in the coming months on the site and may be viewed by clicking “Best Practices.”

“We are extremely proud that these substantial Headliners Foundation awards put a spotlight on the great work of Texas journalists and news organizations,” said Chair Mark Morrison. “Members of the Headliners Club in Austin started the tradition of supporting excellence in journalism more than 60 years ago. They created the Headliners Foundation in 1983 to formalize and expand their commitment.” The Foundation currently invests well over $100,000 annually in awards, scholarships, grants, and educational programs to encourage strong, independent news media and to educate future journalists in the state, he added.

“The commitment to public service journalism in Texas is so apparent when you have the honor of judging the Showcase entries from our broadcasters, newspapers, magazines and digital news organizations,” said John Lumpkin, Headliners Foundation Professional Excellence Committee chair and chair of the judges. “Though the reporting was often not pleasant reading, it may have saved lives, resulted in our public officials following our laws and became the impetus for change.”

A five-member judges’ committee of veteran editors and journalism educators made the selections, and their biographies are available on the Foundation’s 2016 Showcase Awards page: Committee Chair John Lumpkin, Mark Morrison, Nann Goplerud, Jean Marie Brown, and Fred Zipp.

The Foundation is currently accepting submissions for the 2017 Showcase Award Enterprise and Innovation in Journalism. For more information about all 2016 winning entrants and how to submit an entry for consideration for the 2017 award program, please visit the Foundation’s website at


         The Contest Chair and the Foundation Chair are available for interviews
about the contest and winning entries by contacting

About The Headliners Foundation of Texas
Founded in 1983, the Headliners Foundation of Texas is a 501(c)(3) that promotes excellence in journalism by providing scholarships to promising communications students; recognizing outstanding works of journalism and leaders in the industry; and sponsoring special projects that promote journalistic excellence and preserve history.

Araminta Sellers
Headliners Foundation of Texas
Executive Director

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