Primer: Covering Uvalde


In the aftermath of a devastating school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, the nation was shaken to its core. It was a tragedy that left an indelible mark on the collective consciousness, forever etching the images of heartbreak and horror into the minds of those who witnessed its aftermath. Behind the scenes, renowned journalist Tony Plohetski and a determined group of investigative journalists from the Austin-American Statesman embarked on a mission to expose the truth and confront the ethical and logistical challenges reporters face while covering such tragic events.

Next week, The Overby Center will will delve into the gripping tale of the relentless pursuit to bring the Uvalde school shooting story to light, in the Center’s second panel discussion of the fall semester, featuring Tony Plohetski from the Austin American Statesman and fellow Texan and OC Senior National Fellow, Tony Pederson. The event starts at 5:30 p.m. in the Overby auditorium and is open to the public. A generous reception and open bar will follow. 

Plohetski is a national award-winning investigative journalist, writer, and broadcaster whose work spans print, television, and digital mediums. In his more than two decades of reporting in Austin, Texas, he has chronicled the region’s biggest stories, and his investigative and accountability reporting has led to indictments and prompted new state laws and other government reform. In 2022, Plohetski won August’s Sidney Award for covering exclusive video depicting police response to the Uvalde Robb Elementary School shooting. 

Plohetski and his Austin American-Statesman teammates were one of two finalists for the Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal in Meritorious Public Service, the nation’s most prestigious journalism honor, for their reporting on the Uvalde mass shooting. The honor marks the first time in the Austin American-Statesman’s 152-year history that it has been a Pulitzer finalist for news reporting (Editorial cartoonist Ben Sargent won the Pulitzer in 1982 and was a finalist in 2001 and 2002 while at the Statesman.)

The process of making the security footage public was far from straightforward. It was a multi-week struggle marked by ethical dilemmas and logistical hurdles. Plohetski’s commitment to getting the footage’s eventual release ignited a nationwide conversation about law enforcement responses to mass shootings and raised questions about the ethical responsibilities of journalists. The Uvalde school shooting was a tragedy that shook the nation, and the story behind the coverage of this event is equally compelling. The efforts of investigative journalists like Tony Plohetski remind us of journalism’s crucial role in holding power accountable and driving positive change. This panel is an opportunity to delve into the challenges, ethics, and motivations of reporting on such tragic events and to gain a deeper understanding of the relentless pursuit of truth by those who dedicate their lives to this vital endeavor.