“Fire destroys mosque; cause undetermined”

Victoria Advocate  
January 28, 2018


Victoria was sleeping when city editor Tony Balandran drove home early Saturday after a late night of editing a Sunday story. On the drive home, he saw first responders barricading a street. Exhausted, he was tempted to go home; instead, he detoured around until he could get closer and was able to stop in a convenience store’s parking lot, where he saw a large orange glow.

Soon, he realized the fire was coming from the Victoria Islamic Center. As he shot some initial iPhone video, he called other journalists to the scene. Our photos and video of the fire were the only ones taken by journalists of what became a national story. All the first-day coverage, including live and produced video, and extensive follow-up stories are collected on a special web page.

On the first-day main story, you will see a variety of video, Facebook posts and Tweets, photos, and information about how to donate. Within a few days, the Victoria mosque had collected more than $1 million toward its rebuilding project. The strong relationships our nationally award-winning faith editor had built with mosque members helped us with the breaking-news coverage as they immediately opened up to our reporters. This can be seen in our first-day sidebar titled: “Outpouring of support overwhelms mosque members.”

This in-depth breaking news coverage set the tone for our community’s response to what prosecutors later labeled a hate crime. The outpouring of support has become a source of pride for this otherwise dark night in Victoria’s history.

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Submitted by Chris Cobler.

Headliners Foundation