By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Kudos:We don't usually envy daily newspaper folk. Dailies are too bureaucratic, too lacking in the smart-alecky-ness that we love. Here in alterna-world, when big papers suffer through staff cuts, as The Dallas Morning News did with a round of buyouts last year, we eat up the schadenfreude like it's chocolate cake.
So it pains us to say this, but...well, damn, that's some mighty fine work reporter Doug J. Swanson and his fellow Newsers have done on the sex scandal at Texas Youth Commission. (Congrats to the Texas Observer too for similar work on the story.) It's important, reform-inducing reporting, the sort of stuff that should make anyone who doesn't read a newspaper feel like a bad citizen.
No, we're not applying for a job at the News. We're just giving the devil his due.
Swanson's original February 18 report on allegations that the TYC facility for young male offenders in Pyote had become essentially a seraglio for two administrators was gut-wrenching. Swanson—and the Texas Observer, though Swanson's story was the better read—blew apart a cover-up of charges that the administrators at the West Texas facility were trading favors for sex with young inmates.
The story quickly grew, with follow-up reports on similar charges at another facility in Brownwood and the exit of the TYC's executive director and the head of the agency's board.
"It's pretty disgusting," Swanson said of the charges in a short interview with Buzz while he awaited interviews for more follow-ups. He had to cut our chat short when a call came from a former TYC inmate who, like others, had been assaulted. "It's moving a little fast for me," he says.
Swanson was tipped to the story by a staffer in state Representative Jerry Madden's office and began work on it in November. Some digging out in the sands of West Texas turned up former TYC employees who were angry at the assaults and cover-up and willing to talk. (Good for them.)
That, by the way, is called reporting. It's the sort of stuff that bloggers and TV bloviators don't often do, and it only counts if people are willing to read the results. Just sayin'.
Swanson also told us that he's heard from readers who say the victims in his stories are "not kids, they're violent offenders."
No, they are kids, he says, and they were being raped at state expense.
But maybe not anymore.