From harrowing tales of survival to features ranging from fracking to pot legalization, 2014 was a kick-ass year for longform storytelling at the Houston Press. Here's some of our most-read work from the year past:
The First 48 Makes Millions While the Innocent Have Their Lives Ruined You know that super popular reality TV show that dives into murder cases across the country? Well, our investigation, in collaboration with sister paper Miami New Times, revealed serious problems with the police work presented in the show, which makes big bucks off hounding ultimately innocent suspects.
A Young Man's Violent Threat on Facebook Lands Him in Jail, and Limbo It was the Facebook post that ruined a life. Justin Carter said he would "shoot up a kindergarten," but is that a "terroristic threat" according to Texas law?
An 11-Year-Old Sent to Summer Camp Returns to His Family With a Horrible Secret While the Texas Department of State Health Services -- the government entity that oversees all licensed youth camps in Texas -- will check to see if the food is properly prepared and the bathrooms are properly stocked with antibacterial soap, when it comes to child sexual abuse, you're pretty much on your own. Staff writer Dianna Wray writes of how two parents never dreamed that sending their kid to Camp La Junta would turn into a sexual abuse nightmare for the family.
Could Legalization of Marijuana Be in Texas's Future? The Legislature this year is expected to hear proposals that could change the way Texas handles pot. As a primer to the issue and debate, read this feature from Angelica Leicht explaining how opinions on pot are changing in the Lone Star state.
Treating a Mystery: A Disease Named Pandas May Be Causing Frightening Changes in Children Staff writer Craig Malisow explores Pandas, a serious, controversial diagnosis with a cute, cuddly name.
The Dark Side of the Boom: Oil Is Doing Great Things for Some in Texas, but Not for Everyone There's a flip-side to everything. Dianna Wray's piece explains how the oil boom brought prosperity and inflation to parts of Texas. Larger paychecks for some, sky-rocketing rental costs for others.
Space Flight: Increasingly, Gifted Individuals are Opting for the Private Sector Over NASA From 1993 to July of this year, the number of NASA civil servants declined by more than 8,000. SpaceX, on the other hand, has been on the rise since it was founded in 2002, now numbering upwards of 3,000 employees and rivaling private industry newcomer Sierra Nevada Corporation. Boeing claims more than 56,000 in its defense, space and security group. This story from Susan Du explains how, while NASA remains to date the only American agency to have sent humans to space, those three companies are fighting for new talent in the space-flight game.
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Killed in the Line of Training When a training exercise took a dangerous turn, a room full of firefighters couldn't save Neal Smith. Craig Malisow investigates the so-called "smoke divers" program for training volunteer firefighters.
The Girl on the Torture Board Rhonda Williams is one of the forgotten victims of the infamous Houston Mass Murders. Here she tells her full story for the first time