T-Squared: The Texas Tribune and ProPublica share IRE Award for coverage of 2021 winter storm

Millions of Texas residents were left out without access to electricity following the storm that struck Texas over Valentines Day weekend of 2021. (Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune, Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune)

Investigative Reporters and Editors announced Wednesday that The Texas Tribune and ProPublica have received an IRE Award, in the category of investigations triggered by breaking news, for our 2021 winter storm coverage.

The judges wrote, “The team’s coverage of a large winter storm was not just hard-hitting accountability journalism, it was public service at its best. A team of journalists worked under difficult personal conditions to provide Texas residents with basic information about their health and safety while also combating misinformation from public officials about the cause of the resulting power outages.”

Millions of Texas residents were left without access to electricity following the storm that struck Texas over Valentine’s Day weekend of 2021. As the blackouts extended from hours to days amid freezing weather and impassable roads, the Tribune’s breaking news reporting brought the accountability Texans needed about why they were suffering.

Our journalists reported that officials had not given Texans sufficient warning about going days without power. They explained Texas’ heavy reliance on natural gas for power and vulnerabilities in the state’s power grid that made Texas uniquely susceptible to extreme weather. They revealed that Texas had been minutes away from a catastrophic grid breakdown that would probably have taken months to repair and triggered a humanitarian catastrophe. They also documented the political influence of power companies, which helps explain why state officials ignored, dismissed or watered down efforts to address weaknesses in the grid.

Jolie McCullough, Duncan Agnew, Erin Douglas, Kate McGee, Jeremy Schwartz, Kiah Collier and Vianna Davila wrote the articles submitted for this award.

Two journalists who joined The Texas Tribune in recent months were also recognized in the IRE announcement Wednesday.​

Zach Despart was part of a Houston Chronicle team that was a finalist in the same category, for coverage of the Travis Scott concert in Houston on Nov. 5 that took 10 lives. The team there quickly mobilized, obtaining key documents, videos and interviews.

Eleanor Klibanoff was part of a Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting team that, along with Newsy, received an award in the audio category (small newsrooms) for telling the story of the failure of police reform in Louisville, Kentucky.

A full list of the winners and finalists can be found here.