WATCH: “OutLaw” Legislative Impact | Some say Texas’ homosexual conduct ban paved the way for other LGBTQ+ restrictions.

How do you cover a story when you’re part of it? For LGBTQ+ journalists at KXAN, the record number of bills filed at the Texas State Capitol in 2023 restricting their community brought concerns – and presented an opportunity.

After thorough discussion among newsroom leaders, we decided to lean into the informed, well-sourced reporting those journalists could offer, launching our sixth “Catalyst” investigative project to date. Knowing the topic was already highly-politicized and often emotional in legislative hearings and beyond, we wanted to take a multi-platform, extensive look – and produce it in a way our audience would know we are striving to maintain objectivity and fairness.

It started with a broad look at the legislation proposed and analyzing the background, influence and outcome of each bill we focused our reporting around. Some measures passed, others progressed further than ever before. As our investigators tried to track down details on the players behind these policies, we also worked with our LGBTQ+ journalists – reporters, data analysts, photographers – to ensure complete, accurate reporting. We wanted to show how our closeness to the subject was actually a benefit – one we could maintain with an approach that addressed any perceived bias.

		KXAN Investigative Photojournalist Richie Bowes gathers video for the “OutLaw” project in Houston, Austin, El Paso and San Antonio. (KXAN Photo/Josh Hinkle)

KXAN Investigative Photojournalist Richie Bowes gathers video for the “OutLaw” project in Houston, Austin, El Paso and San Antonio. (KXAN Photo/Josh Hinkle)

Our reporting took us across Texas far beyond the Capitol – from Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston to San Antonio and even El Paso. Over six months, we researched financial records, requested decades of criminal and court documents and scoured hours of video, audio and newspaper archives spanning more than 160 years. We interviewed dozens of people – on all sides of these issues – and worked collaboratively to be transparent and scrutinize the content we collected and the stories we would eventually share.

Each story in this project was reviewed by multiple newsroom leaders and part of constant conversations about fairness. We sought the truth. We provided the facts. And we showed our work.

When accuracy or attribution were questioned during the editorial process, we took another look at that story to fill in those blanks and answer those questions. We were mindful to avoid imposing our own values and backgrounds into the stories, and we were careful to choose wording and tone that were impartial and neutral.

We also made certain we reached out to the subjects of our stories, giving them ample time to respond to our reporting. That meant listening openly and being honest about their viewpoints in a straightforward way that doesn’t amplify hate speech or attacks against others.

As an added form of transparency, some of our team members – LGBTQ+ and allies – even discussed their process and experience in a new season of KXAN’s Catalyst Podcast. This accompanies a docuseries, digital stories and a dozen on-air reports to break down these issues in the most comprehensive way we could. We invite you to keep an open mind as you explore all aspects of our “OutLaw” project to get a full picture of the historic, political details of a topic impacting many Texans today.

Josh Hinkle
Director of Investigations & Innovation

OutLaw” is a production of Catalyst, a specialty unit within the KXAN investigative team focused on “digital-first” storytelling that aims to make a positive change in society. The unit takes a multi-platform, innovative approach to each project and rotates among various investigators. Launched on November 13, 2023, “OutLaw” also contains a collection of related stories produced by additional KXAN journalists – several members of the LGBTQ+ community offering unique, developed and inside perspectives. The full list of contributors is below. Special thanks to: Nexstar and NBC affiliate KTSM in El Paso and its investigative director, Andra Litton, for providing content for the docuseries; NBC affiliate KOMU in Columbia, Missouri, for allowing use of past coverage for the “Catalyst” podcast; and Francisco Vara-Orta, diversity and inclusion director of Investigative Editors & Reporters (IRE) for his insight shared on the podcast.

Project Contributors

Storytelling Team

Digital Support

Newsroom Support

Studio Support

  • Joy-Serene Adams
    Studio Technician
  • Forest Langlee
    Senior Director
  • Kipp McCubbin
    Studio Technician
  • Stephanie Soto
    Studio Technician
  • Chris Wilkerson
    Senior Director

Marketing Support

  • Joany D’Agostino
    Creative Services Director
  • Jim Lanning
    Creative Services Senior Producer

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