“Inheriting Inequality”

Austin American-Statesman 
January 18, 2015


With its booming population, diverse economy, renowned music scene and famously progressive ethos, Austin, Texas, has become the darling of the media elites — a bastion of hipness and forward-thinking peoples, the story goes.

But what most Austinites didn’t realize — until a groundbreaking report by the Austin American-Statesman — is that a growing racial and economic divide in the city threatens both the region’s cultural future and its economic opportunities.

In a meticulously reported package – written clearly and approachably on a complex and often-ignored subject — American-Statesman business reporter Dan Zehr documented how historically racist policies and actions have created an economic division in Austin, how the greater Austin community has often aided and abetted the ongoing divide and how the divisions threaten the area’s economic future.

Through text, video, photography, graphics and data interactives, the Statesman team of Zehr, Christian McDonald, Roberto Villalpando and Kelly West mixed poignant human stories — the real impacts on real people — with data and historical elements to tell the full scope of the problem now and how our city arrived at this place. The report used extensive charts, maps and videos to make the topic accessible to a general audience and available in a variety of formats.

“Inheriting Inequality” brought attention to one of the least discussed, most uncomfortable truths of Austin’s past — and its continuing damage to our community and to its future. It helped to start a community conversation that plays out in City Council and school board meetings, in churches and at the dinner table. The Austin City Council has since taken action to address affordability and residential property taxes, and addressing “economic mobility” has become a goal for numerous local officials.

“Inheriting Inequality” was explanatory journalism at its best, using all the tools of the present-day journalist. We are proud to nominate it for this Enterprise and Innovation Award.

LINK to content online

Submitted by John Bridges.

Headliners Foundation