AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) – KXAN-TV announced Tuesday that its team of journalists won the 2019 National Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism from the Norman Lear Center at USC Annenberg. The biennial Walter Cronkite Awards honor television journalism that contributes to the health of America’s democratic institutions.
This is the third Walter Cronkite award and the sixth national journalism award that KXAN-TV has received since 2015. The award was presented to the KXAN-TV team for an episode of the station’s political program, State of Texas, that focused on an investigative reporting series, “Texas’ Oil Empire: Drilling into Power, Money and Ethics.” The series examines Texas Railroad Commission Chairman, Christi Craddick, and the conflicts of interest related to her politically prominent family and her position as the state’s most powerful oil and gas regulator.
Last fall, the KXAN investigative news team launched the “Texas’ Oil Empire: Drilling into Power, Money and Ethics,” project. Over a period of one year, the KXAN team visited nearly a dozen communities across the west Texas plains and delivered exclusive reporting detailing new evidence related to Chairman Craddick and her family’s previously undisclosed financial ties to the oil and gas companies she was elected to regulate. After analyzing thousands of records and documents, the investigation revealed that the Craddick family has financial stakes in hundreds of oil and gas leases through a myriad of corporations, many of which have been the subject of votes Craddick has cast since 2014.
Local watchdog groups and legal experts hope that KXAN’s reporting will result in a renewed push for ethics reform at the state’s Railroad Commission. One lawmaker featured in KXAN’s Texas’ Oil Empire coverage, State Representative Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, has already filed a bill to strengthen transparency at the Commission.
“Nexstar has a strong history of responding to the needs of the people and communities we serve across the country,” stated Tim Busch, President of Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. “As the Company has grown to become one of America’s largest local media organizations, we continue to support the preservation of democratic life in America through our commitment to unbiased broadcast journalism and enhanced local programming and digital content, including increased political coverage from our state capitals and Washington D.C. news bureaus. Our audiences rely on our stations to sort facts from falsehoods and KXAN’s prestigious Walter Cronkite Award is the latest example of how our broadcast journalists are taking the lead in delivering the local stories that matter to our viewers and their families. We are extraordinarily proud of Nexstar’s strong standings in the local communities where we operate and we congratulate KXAN-TV and the investigative team on this great honor.”
“KXAN’s core purpose is to enrich and inform our local community, so when we were awarded for this investigative story specifically, we couldn’t be more excited. Investigative journalism is at the heart of what we do, it is how we enrich the community, and we have to thank our local residents because they are now sending us thousands of tips per month. This story came from one of those tips,” Eric Lassberg, VP and General Manager of KXAN-TV added. “We also want to thank our passionate local news team on this acknowledgment of their outstanding journalistic contributions in covering the Texas’ Oil Empire story and thank the Norman Lear Center for this tremendous honor. Most importantly we hope this investigation promotes positive change for Central Texans.”
Chad Cross, News Director of KXAN-TV added, “Many Texans may never think about what happens inside a state agency like the Railroad Commission because it seems so removed from their lives. We’re proud of our investigative reporting like ‘Oil Empire’ because it explains to Texans why they should care, and sheds light on how elected officials are using their positions of power.”
To review KXAN’s award-winning investigative series visit https://www.kxan.com/oil-empire. State of Texas is broadcast each weekend on Nexstar stations across Texas.