Headliners Foundation announces Showcase winners


(April 6, 2016) —The Headliners Foundation of Texas today announced that the Houston Chronicle’s Brian Rosenthal is the winner of the Foundation’s 2015 Showcase Gold Award for Enterprise and Innovation in Journalism for his series, "How Texas Officials Use Your Money To Help Their Friends."

Rosenthal’s year-long investigative project explored nearly half a dozen ways in which weak Texas laws allow state officials to use hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to help their friends. Among the findings: awards of hundreds of millions in no-bid contracts, filling high-paying jobs without posting them, and handing out excessive bonuses and scholarships. It sparked legislative reforms, policy changes and at least one resignation.  This is the third year this award has been presented and the first year that a Chronicle entry won the top prize, which pays $2000.

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

 The staffs at the Austin American-Statesman and The Texas Tribune for their combined work on "Paid to Prosecute." The project detailed that the state’s largest and oldest provider of workers’ compensation coverage – Texas Mutual Insurance – had paid millions of dollars to the Travis County district attorney’s office for public prosecutors to pursue alleged crimes against the company – a glaring conflict of interest that had flown under the radar for more than a decade.

 The KRGV-TV Weslaco Investigative Team for "Trafficked: Web of Despair." The stories offered first-hand accounts of women smuggled into the country who were subjected to slave-like jobs in factories and as prostitutes.

 Brooks Egerton of The Dallas Morning News for "Deadly Dentistry." After Egerton found a Texas regulatory filing that briefly described a dental sedation death, he pressed for more information, eventually leading the state to reveal that it knew of 85 dental patient deaths and several hundred hospitalizations since 2010. But most of those cases had not triggered public disciplinary action by the agency charged with protecting Texans from dangerous dentists.

The Foundation’s judges awarded honorable mentions to:

 Brian Collister, Chad Cross, Joe Ellis, Ben Friberg and Josh Hinkle of KXAN-TV Austin for "Racial Profiling Whitewash." This investigation uncovered the Texas Department of Public Safety and Austin Police Department wrongly recording the race of minority motorists during traffic stops and skewing the accuracy of data used for racial profiling reports in violation of state law.

 Andy Pierrotti of KVUE-TV Austin for "State of Neglect." The investigation uncovered a dramatic rise in abuse inside Texas nursing homes and a state agency allowing it to happen. After the reports, the Legislature passed tougher standards on nursing home operators.

In addition to the $5,000 in professional recognition awards to Showcase winners, the Foundation will also select 11 Charles E. Green contest winners, and present nearly $30,000 to the Green and 34 division winners selected by the Associated Press broadcast and print partners for outstanding work in 2015 by journalists at Texas media outlets. . For more information about all 2015 winning entrants and how to submit an entry for consideration for the 2016 Showcase Award for Enterprise and Innovation in Journalism, please visit the foundation’s website at www.headlinersfoundation.org.