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Michael Barnes

Note how the Molly Prize champions investigative reporting

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The highest and best calling of journalism is investigative reporting. It’s absolutely essential to take the time, guts and resources to shine a bright light on great and systematic wrongs.

The American-Statesman does it well. For three of the past four years, it has been judged the best newspaper of it size in Texas, in large part because of our crack investigative team.

Among the other media in our state that does it well is the Texas Observer.

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A collection of past issues of the Texas Observer lay on a couch in their offices in downtown Austin in this 2006 photo. Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

While the Observer and other independent media set themselves up against traditional media, such as daily newspapers, our missions are actually complementary, as Slate political correspondent Jamelle Bouie graciously acknowledged as part of a keynote chat during the Molly National Journalism Prize dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Bouie shared the stage with Molly Prize winner Shane Bauer and Observer publisher Michael Kanin. They tried to untangle the role of the independent media in the Trump era. Since the guests at the sold-out event — a benefit for the nonprofit Observer — leaned conspicuously leftward, almost every mention of the president was met with audible gasps or chuckles.

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Monica Peraza and Elliott Naishtat at the Molly National Journalism Prize dinner for the Texas Observer.

At the dinner, co-chairs Katie Cukerbaum and Abby Rappaport introduced Robert Frump as winner of the Bernard Rappaport Philanthropy Award, then Observer editor Forrest Wilder gave out the Molly Prizes, named of course for late firecracker Molly Ivins.

  1. Honorable Mention: Sarah Ryley, ProPublica/New York Daily News, for reporting on how the New York Police Department uses a nuisance abatement laws to close homes and businesses without due process. It was answered with significant action by City Council.
  2. Honorable Mention: Patricia Callahan and Michael J. Berens, Chicago Tribune, for a series on abuse and neglect of people with disabilities. (The American-Statesman did a similar bang-up job on the subject in Texas.)
  3. Winner: Shane Bauer, Mother Jones, who went undercover to report, “My Four Months a s a Private Prison Guard.” The magazine spent 18 months and $350,000 getting this story to the page.