KXAN Investigative team wins Walter Cronkite Award for border coverage

KXAN’s team of investigative journalists, KXAN Investigates, earned national recognition Monday, winning the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism for ongoing coverage of the cost of Texas’ border security operations.

Award judges called the KXAN investigation, “deeply resourced, deeply reported coverage of the expensive and questionably successful effort by lawmakers and law enforcement to stop drug smugglers from entering the state from Mexico.”

Last fall, KXAN’s investigative team launched an extensive “Border Splurge” project, detailing how state lawmakers have devoted $1.6 billion in taxpayer funds to Texas Department of Public Safety operations – in large part – to stop drug smugglers from entering the state from Mexico.

The winning Cronkite award entry was an episode of KXAN’s weekly political show, State of Texas: In-depth, which explored in detail what the investigative work revealed. Judges praised the station’s holding elected officials accountable and featuring people directly impacted by federal and state policies.

The investigation revealed few of the arrests DPS troopers are making on the border are the “high threat criminals” they’re intending to catch. KXAN analyzed more than 32,000 arrests from a 2-year period and discovered just six percent were for felony drug possession. Instead, most arrests were for drunk driving.

“Texans are entitled to know if public funds are getting the intended results and whether elected officials are being good stewards of our resources,” said KXAN News Director Chad Cross. “Clear information about the real impact of the border investment wasn’t out there, so we sought to find it. We’re grateful for this recognition of KXAN delivering valuable journalism that enlightens the public.”

The Cronkite award “encourages and showcases substantive and innovative coverage that informs viewers about their electoral choices,” according to the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center, which organizes the competition. Winners will receive the awards at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. next month.

This marks the second consecutive Cronkite win for KXAN. In 2015, its political team was recognized for coverage of the legislative debate over women’s health and abortion restrictions.

KXAN’s State of Texas, In-depth airs Sundays at 8:30 a.m., right before NBC’s Meet the Press.

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