GALVESTON, Texas – El Paso Matters’ investigations of the District Attorney’s Office, Socorro school board and El Paso Police Department were honored this weekend at the Texas Managing Editors conference.
Molly Smith won first place in deadline writing for her story on a court filing that showed how District Attorney Yvonne Rosales’ legal advisor, Roger Rodriguez, used the family of a man killed in the 2019 Walmart mass shooting in an effort to undermine a judge who had criticized the District Attorney’s Office for its handling of the case. The filing also revealed threats by Rodriguez and Rosales against El Paso Matters.
“Kudos to the newsroom for not letting a source push them around,” the judges said in making the award.
Journalists Victoria Rossi, Robert Moore, Danielle Prokop, Cindy Ramirez and Smith won second place in investigative report of the year for reporting on Rosales, who resigned in December.
Smith also was recognized for her work in reporting on Socorro school board member Ricardo Castellano’s efforts to remove a principal who had disciplined his wife, who was a teacher in the district. She won first place in freedom of information for her efforts to obtain a recording that showed Castellano denigrating the principal, other Socorro employees and fellow school board members.
“Had it not been for El Paso Matters’ reporter Molly Smith’s persistence in prying loose public records from a local school district, the community never would have known about a school board member’s personal quest to oust a middle school principal who his wife, a teacher there, did not like,” the judges said in the award citation.
Smith also won honorable mention for investigative report of the year for her Socorro coverage.
Reporter René Kladzyk won first place in community service for her series “Narcan on hand,” which documented the El Paso Police Department’s resistance to equipping patrol officers with a spray that can save lives of people overdosing. The Police Department increased the availability of Narcan shortly after Kladzyk’s series was published.
“This series skillfully tackles a seemingly obvious question: If overdose deaths are on the rise, why aren’t police officers equipped with Narcan kits,” the judges’ citation said.
Kladzyk also won third place in investigative report of the year for her Narcan series.
Photojournalist Corrie Boudreaux won second- and third-place awards in news photography for work documenting people who were attempting to migrate to the United States.
El Paso Matters won honorable mention in online package of the year for its 2022 voter guide.
Christian Betancourt, now a NextCity fellow at El Paso Matters, received the Charles E. Green Award for breaking news reporting for coverage of a tornado when he was a reporter for the Temple Daily Telegram.
El Paso Times and El Paso Inc. journalists also won several awards in the statewide contest.
For the Times, Lauren Villagran won first place in specialty reporting; second in deadline writing and second in breaking news report of the year.
Villagran and Omar Ornelas won first place for video. Ornelas won first place in news photography and third place in photojournalism.
Martha Pskowski and Villagran won a second-place award for community service.
Vic Kolenc of the Times won first place in business reporting, and Samuel Gaytan won first place in comment and criticism.
The Times was awarded second place in online package of the year and an honorable mention for team effort.
Monica Ortiz Uribe of the Times was awarded third place in specialty reporting.
Victor Martinez of El Paso Inc. won first place in feature writing.
Cosima Rangel of El Paso Inc. won second place in both feature photography and photo journalism. Amaris Richardson won third place in feature writing, and Sara Sanchez won honorable mention in business reporting.
El Paso Matters and El Paso Times competed in the contest’s Class AA, which is for media organizations with nine to 19 journalists. El Paso Inc. competed in Class A, for media organizations with eight or fewer journalists.
Dino Chiecchi, an El Paso native, was given the Jack Douglas Award for service to Texas journalism. Chiecchi is now on the faculty of Texas State University.