June 20, 2018

The Texas Tribune has gone all out on the government's separation of kids 

He left his day job, headed for the border, got out his long lens and took some of the first photographs of detained kids who had been separated from their parents through President Trump’s order against legal asylum-seekers and migrants.

Freelance photographer Ivan Pierre Aguirre is just one part of a massive effort by the Texas Tribune to cover the widening story of kids ripped from their parents, says the news site’s editor, Emily Ramshaw.

“This has exploded into a major national and international humanitarian story for us,” Ramshaw says. “I would compare it to Hurricane Harvey,” but even bigger because of the vast border the statewide site is covering.

Even with GOP senators saying they will create a bill to end the separations, the unraveling will take a while, and Ramshaw says the site is in it for the long haul.

The Tribune, like Texas Monthly, has managed to find what Ramshaw calls “impactful angles,” as has the Houston Chronicle and the dean of border reporters, Alfredo Corchado of The Dallas Morning News.

By the numbers, Ramshaw says the Tribune has three reporters and a fleet of freelance photographers like Aguirre at the border; a video and audio reporter in the field; five enterprise and investigative reporters in Austin; two full-timers and help from The Washington Post in D.C.

Ivan Pierre Aguirre (Photo: Aaron Montes)
Ivan Pierre Aguirre on assignment (Photo: Aaron Montes)

The site is answering questions from its readers on the story, as well as providing a list of nonpartisan aid groups. Unlike Harvey, when the Trib played an advocacy role to find housing and restore power to those affected, the site is merely providing lists of resources in the family separation crisis for readers to choose.

The Trib has also reminded members and newsletter subscribers of the extra cost of this kind of coverage — and asked for their help in sharing and promoting the stories.

The big questions being explored include what companies got the contracts to build the detention centers, what sort of oversight and safety protections are in place — and how, logistically, children will be reunited with their families. At the same time, the site is explaining how exactly the parents and children are separated — and where they go after they are apprehended.

What happens to separated families
Sources: Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security and Texas Tribune research. Credit: Chris Essig, Emma Platoff and Darla Cameron, Texas Tribune. Icons from the Noun Project by Eucalyp and Adam Simpson.

Here’s a Tribune explainer of coverage and a Poynter guide to resources. Keep up with the latest through the curated series of CrowdTangle feeds.

In other developments:

— Who profits from imprisoning kids? Yahoo News identified five companies that won multimillion-dollar contracts on the Trump family separation program, which went up for bids in September. One of the five companies identified says it will no longer participate in detaining children. 

— The Associated Press, speaking to a host of aid professionals, described abandoned, crying preschool babies in crisis in three "tender age" incarceration centers for young children in the Rio Grande Valley. It said a fourth jail for hundreds of children would be built in a Houston warehouse that once housed people displaced from Hurricane Harvey. Decades of study, the AP reported, show early separations can cause permanent emotional damage.

— MSNBC's Rachel Maddow broke down in tears as she tried to read the AP report on air. She could not finish it, and apologized later on Twitter to viewers.

— Activists shouted "shame!" and confronted Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen while she was eating at a Mexican restaurant in Washington. Nielsen left, and a protest organizer, Margaret McLaughlin, said: “Secretary Nielsen and everyone else who has carried out these brutal and cold-blooded orders to rip apart families should never be allowed to eat and drink in public again.”

— A crowdsourcing drive to aid the refugee and migrant families torn apart has captured the imagination of Americans repulsed by the Trump border initiative. More than 130,000 people donated a total of $5 million through Facebook to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services in Texas.

Quick hits 

IT’S ON THE RECORD: So why didn’t The New York Times put the voice of White House aide and family separation proponent Stephen Miller on its popular The Daily podcast? The Times explained that it agreed to the interview as part of a deep dive article, not a podcast, and the paper decided to honor that condition, writes Erik Wemple. The content of the interview was used but the audio was not.

LATEST ROB ROGERS CARTOON: The fired Pittsburgh Post-Gazette syndicated his first cartoon without a day job on Tuesday (below). In an interview, Rogers, after a guest op-ed column spot in The New York Times over the weekend, said he would work for the NYT for even half of Thomas Friedman’s salary. “You’d work for a quarter of it,” responded his interviewer, cartoonist Joel Pett.

THANK YOU, TUCKER CARLSON!: That’s the message from NPR, which got a $2 million donation from Seth MacFarland after Trump-friendly Carlson trashed non-Fox News sources. MacFarland also gave $500,000 to Southern California public radio affiliate KPCC, Deadline reports.

UNIONIZING: Jacksonville’s paper may be the third in Florida from GateHouse Media to unionize. Staff at The Florida Times-Union began a process that could lead to a union vote, Poynter’s Kristen Hare reports. The Sarasota and Lakeland papers unionized in 2016.

END MISOGYNY IN JOURNALISM: An open letter was published in several journalism outlets on the comportment of international journalists. The letter came after the head of a Portuguese press association forcibly kissed a woman onstage at a recent conference. “We are done pandering to the egos of change-resistant influential men,” it read.

PAYING OUR DUE: Earlier this year, The New York Times published her obituary, 87 years late. Now a drive is gaining momentum to create a memorial in Chicago for legendary African American journalist Ida B. Wells, who crusaded for women's suffrage and against lynching — and who fled north after a white mob destroyed the presses of her Memphis paper. By Peter Slevin.

What we’re reading

CONCENTRATION CAMPS: The sites of these mushrooming number of detainee centers has been added to a Wikipedia list of past U.S. internment and concentration camps. That has provoked debate on the site. From Motherboard.

FAIL: Is there rampant vote fraud? In a Kansas case, the answer was no. Definitely not. By Jessica Huseman of ProPublica.

MUSSOLINI REDUX?: Comparisons with the former Fascist dictator abound after Italy's new interior minister calls for the expulsion of non-Italians and a census of the nation's Roma population. 

CLEARED: Junot Diaz will be returning to teach at MIT in the fall, after a university investigation found no wrongdoing in the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and creative writing instructor’s interactions toward female students and staff, AP reports. The internal investigation began after author Zinzi Clemmons said Diaz forcibly kissed her several years ago; others female writers cited instances when they felt he had verbally attacked them. Diaz has said he takes responsibility for his past actions.

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