“Missed Signs, Fatal Consequences”


Recipient of the Star Investigative Report of the Year award in The Charles E. Green Awards (2015)

Andrea Ball and Eric Dexheimer
Austin American-Statesman 


Judge’s Comments:

“All the entries do a good job of holding public officials accountable for their inept and often unethical actions, but none does it as well as The Austin American-Statesman.

In 2009, Texas lawmakers ordered the Child Protective Services to start collecting information on and producing a public report for every child abuse death. Five years later a team of reporters from the American-Statesman discovered that the state produced the records in nearly 800 fatalities. But it simply filed them away, never to be reviewed or analyzed.

However, the team of reporters did, in a near-perfect example of how to conduct an investigation using public documents. It created its own database using such public records as personnel records, court documents and state investigations. That innovative database and the team’s research, analysis and interviews led to shocking discoveries: state investigators had been in touch with nearly half of the children who died. Furthermore, some had been interviewed more than a dozen times and some children died after a few investigators lied and filed false reports about the deaths. Perhaps even worse, some mothers looked the other way when boyfriends killed their children.

The series, “Missed Signs, Fatal Consequences,” is well-organized and well-written. And it prompted nearly instant results: newly elected Gov. Greg Abbott committed $40 million to overhaul the child protection laws. Here’s hoping the American-Statesman in a few more years investigates how well the state enforces the new laws.”

Mike Waller
Author and retired President,
Publisher and CEO of The Baltimore Sun

Mike Waller is the retired president, publisher and chief executive officer of The Baltimore Sun, as well as author of Blood on the Out-Basket: Lessons in Leadership from a Newspaper Junkie. Prior to his tenure at The Sun, he held a variety of positions at The Hartford Courant. From 1986-1997, he served as executive editor and vice president, editor and publisher. From 1978-1986, he worked as managing editor, then editor of The Kansas City Star and The Kansas City Times. From 1967-1978, Waller worked at The Courier-Journal and The Louisville Times as chief of the copy desk, executive sports editor and assistant managing editor. He began his newspaper career in 1961 as a sports clerk at The Decatur Herald.

To experience the work of the Austin American-Statesman’s investigative work on this prize-winning series, select the link below.

Missed Signs, Fatal Consequences

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