KHOU's 'Under Fire' and the Impact of Local News
Poynter Online has a fascinating look at how KHOU Houston’s investigative “Under Fire” series was hatched and executed. The 11 installments of Under Fire examined sexual discrimination and, ultimately, kickbacks within the Texas National Guard.
The story began with a phone call from the mother of a woman in the military who’d witnessed disturbing gender-based hazing in the Texas Guard. It culminated in the removal of several top generals by the Texas governor.
Al Tompkins interviews KHOU E.P. David Raziq and reporter Mark Greenblatt about how the story came together.
A snippet of it:
We filed a Freedom of Information Act Request for the entire investigation. We also asked the women to do the same. We filed our requests from the National Guard Bureau instead of the Texas National Guard. More than a year and a half later, the documents came back (heavily redacted). But the National Guard Bureau had left enough intact to let us clearly see that a brigadier general had actually substantiated many more allegations than what the Texas Guard had told Congress about.
Then, a surprise development: As we were making the three-hour drive to Austin from Houston to interview the top general in Texas about this alleged cover-up, we received another tip: That general may have “double-dipped” or pocketed money wrongfully from both the state and the federal government for work done at the same time. We had absolutely no documentation to refer to. But the source, who called, was impeccable. In the course of the interview, we brought it up through a series of carefully crafted and strategic questions. Amazingly, we were able to get the top general in Texas to admit, on camera, that he wrongfully took $53,000.
But both David Raziq and investigative photojournalist Keith Tomshe had another suggestion: If one guy did it, what about the other generals? And, they suggested, isn’t it possible that the top general really took more than $53,000? As it turned out, they were right on both accounts.