Meet Lisa Falkenberg

Lisa Falkenberg mug studio. ( Billy Smith II / Houston Chronicle)

(Billy Smith II / Houston Chronicle)

In 2015, the Pulitzer Prize jury granted Lisa Falkenberg of the Houston Chronicle the Pulitzer Prize for commentary “for vividly-written, groundbreaking columns about grand jury abuses that led to a wrongful conviction and other egregious problems in the legal and immigration systems.”

During 2014, Falkenberg published a series of commentary in which she exposed the wrongful conviction of inmates by the Texas criminal justice system, exposing the complex side of this system that leads to injustice and bias. In the first series of columns she exposed the wrongful conviction of Alfred Dewayne Brown eight years after he was convicted by a Harris County court for killing a Houston police. Her columns on this case stretched from May to December leading to the Texas highest criminal court  to overturn Brown’s conviction and his death sentence and the Harris County criminal defense bar had called for an investigation of Brown’s case. Moreover,  Falkenberg wrote a column in which she reveled that all 22 criminal court judges in Harris County had been sealing all gran jurors’ names, which protected them from all accountability. After this expose, some of the judges vowed to stop sealing the names of grand juror and lawmakers have introduced legislation banning the pick-a-pal option for grand jury selection.

Falhenberg was able to achieve these effects with her writing by engaging in thorough investigation of the facts that provided grounds for strong arguments against such injustices. Moreover,  she was persistent while pursuing these cases, writing column after column on the same topics, every-time providing crucial evidence that led to these outcomes.

Thanks to Lisa’s columns on a wide range of social issues facing Texas – judicial system, immigration, voting rights, and police shooting – citizens are more informed about how the justice system in Texas works and therefore policy-makers are prone to bring on changes.

Falkenberg bas been working for the Houston Chronicle since 2005 , where she is currently the city desk columnists. She initially worked as Chronicle’s state correspondent from Austin. Prior to that, Falkenberg worked in the Associated Press’s bureau in Dallas. She has earned several local and state journalism awards for her column-writing. She was named the Chronicle’s Commentator of the Year in 2009. Community groups that have recognized her work on social issues include Houston’s Coalition for the Homeless, The Houston Peace and Justice Center and the local chapter of the Council of Jewish Women. She was a finalist in the Pulitzer commentary category in 2014.

I want you to read a couple of Lisa’s columns and provide a thorough analysis of the strengths of her columns, identifying the elements of column writing we have discussed in class so far (topic, research and evidence, point of view and voice, writing style and structure). You can start by reading columns ” In Harris County, secrecy shrouds our grand jurors’ names” and “Immigration order leaves some behind”.

The best way to learn how to be a good column writer is by reading other people’s work. And Lisa’s work is among the best of the best! Enjoy!


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