It Was a Very Good Year


Dave Mann

Every media outlet on earth is running year-in-review pieces this week. Here at The Texas Observer, we usually don’t follow the media crowd, but in this case, I’d be remiss if I didn’t recognize what our writers and editors accomplished in 2013. Thanks to their hard work (and the generous support of people like you), we’ve published more impact stories, won more awards, and attracted more readers in 2013 than ever before. Among our successes: 

—For only the second time, the Observer was a finalist for a National Magazine Award—the highest honor in magazine journalism. That was one of five national journalism awards our writers either won or were nominated for.

—We reported how the Texas Medical Board allowed a Dallas back surgeon to continue practicing—despite numerous complaints—after two of his patients died and five others were severely injured. Our story led to calls to reform the Medical Board.

—Emily DePrang wrote a two-part series on police brutality and accountability in Houston. Emily’s reporting revealed that HPD almost never disciplines its officers for abuse, and that in a five-year span HPD officers were involved in 550 shootings—the department deemed every single shooting “justified.” That included the killing of a wheelchair-bound mentally ill man with one arm and one leg who was armed with only a pen. The Houston Chronicle, CNN and HuffPost followed up on Emily’s reporting with their own stories about HPD. Thanks to Emily’s ground-breaking reporting, people in Houston are now talking seriously about reform.

—In July, Forrest Wilder discovered that payday loan companies were seeking criminal prosecutions against hundreds of customers simply for being in debt. Forrest’s reporting led the Texas Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner, a state agency, to warn payday loan companies that they’re not allowed to threaten borrowers with criminal prosecution.

—And our most widely read story of the year was a moving first-person account by Rachel Pearson, a medical student working at a free clinic in Galveston who has watched her uninsured patients die needlessly from treatable conditions. We titled the piece “Texas’ Other Death Penalty,” because for uninsured people with cancer and other chronic conditions, that’s all our so-called safety net offers: a death sentence. Hundreds of thousands read the piece.Rachel even got a call from the White House about the piece.

That’s just a sampling. For a fuller accounting, check out our best stories of 2013 here.

And more people are reading the Observer than ever before. This year we’ve doubled our web readership from 2012—to 1.2 million unique visitors.

In 2014, we plan to keep breaking big stories, uncovering corruption and injustices, telling stories that others haven’t—or won’t—and bringing you compelling narratives and insightful cultural coverage.

Thank you for reading and supporting the Observer and happy New Year.