The March/April issue of the Texas Observer, featuring some of our best work in 2023. The cover depicts a cartoon of young boy dressed as a militia member.

Top 20 Stories From the Year We Nearly Went Under

After roaring back with an issue on women’s health, we exposed heat deaths at Tesla and USPS, went after Angela Paxton, and broke news on queer rights.

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As many of you know, this year, the Texas Observer nearly bit the dust but was saved by the incredible generosity of our readers. All year, we’ve worked hard to make good on your incredible show of faith.

It’s always preferable to tell the news rather than make it, but sometimes journalism is the story. For our best stories list this year, the rebirth of the mighty Texas Observer got an honorable mention. We were able to kick ass in 2023 because of it. 

The Texas Observer Lives!

We’re still fundraising till we drop on New Year’s Eve, so please help keep us going if you haven’t pitched in this year—your gift will be matched up to $50,000!

All best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!

Texas Observer Staff

After our crisis, we roared back with our issue on women’s health, edited by Editor-at-Large Gayle Reaves, because women are under attack in Texas, and we must cover it. 

May/June cover of the Texas Observer

Then, in a piece that turned out to be prescient, McHam Fellow Josephine Lee sounded the alarm about what’s really going on in our schools. 

Senior Writer Gus Bova exposed a heat death at Tesla that is just the tip of the iceberg (and here’s the Spanish version). 

Staff Writer Michelle Pitcher took on armed domestic abusers. 

Digital Editor Kit O’Connell broke news on queer rights.

Senior Write Justin Miller kept tabs on Governor Greg Abbott’s wasteful, no-good border wall.

Josephine found more workers dying of heat at USPS. 

Contributor Jason Buch followed the money from Mexico. (Jason’s earlier series, Follow the Money, was named one of the 15 best investigative reports in all of the Americas in 2022-2023 at COLPIN, the Latin American Investigative Reporting Conference.)

The Observer wasn’t the only one to make news this year. New Board Member Kathleen McElroy stood up for journalism—and all hell broke loose. Editor-in-Chief Gabriel Arana tells you what happened. 

Contributing photographer Jesse Freidin garnered a nomination for a National Magazine Award (the magazine Oscars) for a photo essay on trans youth. 

Trans youth with the arms of parents around her

An ad with the text: When Texas is at its worst, the Texas Observer must be at its best. We need your support to do it. A button reads: JOIN NOW

Gus exposed Lege Republicans’ power-grab against cities trying to curb the damage.

Kathleen wrote about her experience of being in the media spotlight rather than the one behind it.

Kathleen McElroy headshot
Texas Observer Board Member Kathleen McElroy

Gabe kept the heat on Texas schools, which are rooting out LGBTQ+ folk left and right. 

Senior Writer and Editor Lise Olsen visited a body farm for our March/April issue.

Contributor April Ortiz opened up about her journey. 

In our most-read story of the year, Jopsehine found an egregious case of Brownsville ISD violating threat assessment laws—all baked in with a coordinated coverup. (In Spanish)

Timothy Murray shows off his trophy from the annual Brownsville ISD Elementary Science Fair in November 2022.
Timothy Murray shows off his trophy from the annual Brownsville ISD Elementary Science Fair in November 2022. (Courtesy of Nadia Rincon)

Gus checked in on the labor movement in Texas.

Our series, Drifting Toward Disaster, kept an eye on the environment. The marquee piece from dearly departed Writer Delger Erdenessana—who left us for a small-town paper called The New York Times—took Dow Chemical to task for polluting our water.

Special Correspondent Steven Monacelli wrapped up the year with a cover story about the money taking over Texas school boards. (Don’t miss the interactive map of influence!)

The cover of the November/December 2023 issue of Texas Observer magazine features an illustration of a shadowy "puppeteer"-type figure, using marionette strings to control protesters outside of a public school. The top headline is "The Radical Right's K-12 Takeover: Conservative consultants and PACS are turning Texas school board races into partisan battlegrounds, by Steven Monacellt." Other headlines: Safety Off by Michelle Pitcher, Deadly Toll Rod by Josephine Lee, and A&M's Liberal Purge by Gabriel Arana.

Unfortunately, it looks like the 11-year-old honor student from Brownsville ISD won’t be getting a break this holiday season.