February 13, 2017
Sex trafficking is never far from the headlines. We’ve all seen the flashy cable news stories, the explosive reports of law enforcement stings, the harrowing images of women, many of them foreign-born, housed in rundown motel rooms.
But rarely has this coverage touched on the most hard-to-stomach — and hard-to-report — aspect of the crime: the American children plucked from schools, foster care and even child welfare facilities and sold for sex.
Texas Tribune journalists Morgan Smith, Edgar Walters and Neena Satija approached the Sold Out project from this untold perspective, giving readers a window into the lives of troubled young girls lured into Texas’ sex trade by pimps with promises of a more stable life.
Their reporting required nearly a year of precarious source development, and months buried in court files. Their writing was powerful, honest and empathetic, channeling the young women brave enough to reveal their stories.
But they also sought accountability.
Morgan, Edgar and Neena revealed over and over how state leaders’ indifference and incompetence had failed these child victims on multiple levels. They exposed how Texas’ child welfare system had become a de facto pipeline that feeds the state’s underground sex trade. Their reporting identified fundamental flaws in the state’s safety nets for vulnerable children both in the foster care and juvenile justice systems.
After “Sold Out” was published by The Texas Tribune, and cross-published in countless other news organizations including Cosmopolitan.com, Elle Magazine and Vanity Fair — Texas lawmakers increased funding to the state’s child welfare agency by half a billion dollars, part of broader reforms that included addressing sex-trafficking. They created a $3 million grant program for child sex-trafficking victims, one of the specific recommendations in our reporting. And they hired the state’s first-ever director of human-trafficking prevention.
This was impactful, high-octane journalism at its finest, produced by three writers who are devoted to the craft. We believe Sold Out is worthy of your consideration.
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Submitted by Emily Ramshaw.