ATXplained

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Every day at KUT, we try to think about what you want to know. That’s what drives the decisions we make about the stories we tell. But we wanted to try an experiment to bring you, the audience, closer to the news and storytelling we do at KUT.

So we started our ATXplained project – a crowdsourced reporting project where we ask you what we should investigate and what stories you'd like us to tell. 

It's simple. You ask a question, we put it to a vote and, if your question gets chosen, a KUT reporter, with your help, will set out to try and answer that question.

We also have an ATXplained Facebook group for fans of the project!

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Austin Price for KUT

It has been more than eight years since the City of Austin bought a 20-acre property near the intersection of I-35 and St. Johns Avenue. The space used to house a Home Depot store. Today, the building sits vacant. 

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

They're all over town: printed or painted signs in a yard, telling drivers not to park in front of a house. They're not official signs from the city, threatening legitimate towing or expressing hours you can't park; they're more DIY. 

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

The City of West Lake Hills started with a drunken plot of revenge.

A decade before Emmett Shelton founded the city in 1953, his brother, Polk, had political aspirations. But when he failed to win the 1937 Democratic primary for a seat in Congress – losing to Lyndon B. Johnson – the brothers and their friends hatched a different plan: build a city to keep their political enemies out.

At least that's how the legend goes.

For newcomers expecting a First Street where Cesar Chavez Street is located, technically, Cesar Chavez is First Street.
Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

If you live in Austin, you know we like to do things our own way. That includes how we name our streets. But it can sometimes be confusing. For example, shouldn’t First Street be in the place of Cesar Chavez, parallel with all the other numbered streets downtown? 

Jorge Sanhueza Lyon / KUT

Austin has grown through the years – more people, more traffic – and with that growth has come lots and lots of mattress stores. If you ever make the drive on Anderson Lane in North Austin, you know there is no shortage of places to buy a mattress.

Martin do Nascimento/KUT

About 85,000 people visit Hippie Hollow every year.

The park on the shore of Lake Travis, just outside Austin, is well-known as a place where you can go to get some sun – without the tan lines. It's thought to be Texas' only clothing-optional public park.

But how did it get that way?

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

When you're driving down Lamar Boulevard between Lady Bird Lake and Fifth Street, do you ever look at the walls of the underpass beneath the train bridge? Do you look at those blank blue signs on the walls of the underpass and wonder: What the heck are those things?

Laura Bauman does. So she asked about them for our ATXplained project.

We're ready for the next voting round in our ATXplained project, where we collect questions from our audience, put them to a vote and then investigate the winning question.

This time, as we enter the hottest months of the year, we're putting three lake-related questions head-to-head. 

Here are the candidates:

  • What happened to Austin's "Aqua Fest"? Why did it stop?
  • What effort went into taming the Colorado River into the Highland Lakes?
  • Why is Hippie Hollow on Lake Travis clothing optional?

Use the form below to cast your vote!

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

You’ve probably seen them while driving around town – those handwritten signs next to the road with messages like: “We buy houses for cash! Call now!”

The next voting round for our ATXplained series is all about bridges.

We've collected your questions and chosen three to put head to head. This time, we chose questions on the theme of bridges in Austin. Whichever question gets the most votes will be the next story we investigate for our ATXplained series. 

Austin History Center, PICA 29083

Justin Hill, 36, grew up in Convict Hill. He remembers the Southwest Austin neighborhood, which is part of Oak Hill, as a mix of rural and suburban – lots of cedar, oaks and rocks. His house butted up against a cliff, which descended into thick woods, where he and his younger brother would spend hours after school or on the weekends exploring.

It's time for the next voting round in our ATXplained project.

We've been collecting your questions about Austin's people, places and phenomena. Now, it's time to weigh in on which question you want us to investigate next.

Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT

Most of us ride up and down highways without giving them a second thought. But there seems to be something different about MoPac. The glorified parking lot known, at least officially, as Loop 1 has given many a driver plenty of time to ponder its quirks while stuck in traffic.

Mose Buchele

Every year they invade Austin in loud swarms – eating, drinking, mating. No, it’s not the throngs of ACL or South by Southwest. We’re talking about the crickets.


Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Austin residents are no strangers to orange cones dotting the highways or construction cranes in the sky. But one KUT listener wondered: Why does it take so long to get anything built around here? 


Flickr via Steve Snodgrass

Regardless of what you think of Austin calling itself the “Live Music Capital of the World,” you’ve got to admit it is pretty effective branding. Even people who don’t like music, and who’ve never been here, equate the city with a vibrant scene.


Your Hottest Takes on That Hatch Chile Story

Aug 26, 2016
Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

In the latest installment of our ATXplained series, KUT's Kate McGee tackled the grocer-backed frenzy surrounding the Hatch chile pepper. It's a time when the flavor of the beloved New Mexican pepper infiltrates seemingly any and all sundries.

For every obvious flavor combo, like chips or salsa or tortilla soup, there are seemingly dozens of other, more questionable fusions – Hatch pancake mix, Hatch beer, Hatch poundcake, Hatch wine, Hatch cookies and the like. 

Kate's story sought to answer the question of how festivals like Central Market's Hatch-A-Palooza sprouted up, and the answer to that question – and the revelation that Hatch chiles are virtually identical to counterparts like the Anaheim – was unsavory to some.

Things got heated.

So, here's a smattering of responses, compliments and hot takes we got online.

Lisseth Lopez for KUT News

Central Market’s annual Hatch chile festival, Hatch-A-Palooza, is over for the year. But you can still get Hatch chiles pretty much in every Austin grocery store. Did you ever wonder why grocery stores get so excited about Hatch chiles? 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The headline says it all in this one, really.

In the latest installment of our ATXplained series, KUT's Phil Benpott tried to answer the eternal question: Is Austin really that weird? It's a question without a definitive answer, it seems. And, even though Phil struggled to find a clear-cut "yes" or "no" response, plenty of folks had opinions about the story.

For our ATXplained project, we're asking for your questions about people, places and things around Austin. Then we put those questions to a vote. We've gotten a lot of great questions, but in our voting rounds, there can be only one winner. 

This time, we're bringing back some runners-up from past rounds for a second chance at being investigated by KUT reporters.

Cast your vote for one of these silver medalists and help pick which one will be next for ATXplained!

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Is Austin Really Still Keeping It Weird?

Jul 28, 2016
Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

This story is part of our ATXplained project, which answers questions from our audience. In this edition, we tackle a question from Nisha Bagepalli: "Where did the phrase 'Keep Austin Weird' come from? And is Austin REALLY all that weird anymore?" 

Jorge Sanhueza Lyon / KUT

"Would you like to have a little Coke?" asks Kathy Bell Hargrave, cracking open a can of soda in her daughter's kitchen.

Some things we do in life without giving a second thought, but when we stop to think about them we realize they raise a lot of questions. 

“Every can that I open, every piece of paper, everything I want to recycle it,” says Bell Hargrave. “I put it all in a giant blue bin, but what happens to it? I don’t know."


Mose Buchele for KUT News

You know what happens when you leave your car under a tree full of grackles? What your car looks like after a day or two? To hear John Burns tell it, there was a time when the University of Texas campus looked like that.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT

Some birds are well-liked. Some are considered pests. Many just slip under the radar—but not the grackle. The grackle demands that you take notice. Pamela Gooby certainly did. 

“It’s like this big velvet wave of grackle in the parking lot of the grocery store," says Gooby, whose question was chosen for this edition of KUT's ATXplained series.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon for KUT News

You've probably seen this memorial if you've ever driven on Lamar Blvd in Austin. It's right there, on the pillar holding up the train bridge where Third Street crosses Lamar.

It says: "Fair Sailing Tall Boy. Ivan Garth Johnson. Not forgotten. 1971 - 1989. Don't Drink and Drive, You Might Kill Someone's Kid."  

Lynett Oliver doesn’t know Ivan Garth Johnson. She doesn’t know anything about him. But if you’re like her, you can’t help but wonder: What’s the story behind this memorial?

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon for KUT News

A few weeks ago we asked you to tell us what you want to know about Austin. It’s a project we’re calling ATXplained. You sent in dozens of questions you wanted us to investigate. We narrowed it down to one by letting the public vote at KUT.org. The story those voters chose is about traffic light synchronization, and when all of Austin’s lights will be synchronized.

KUT’s Audrey McGlinchy looked into it.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon for KUT News

Last month KUT asked our audience to suggest stories they wanted us to report on. The story that listeners chose is about Austin’s African American population.  Specifically, why is it shrinking, while every other group in the city grows?  In the first installment of a project we’re calling ATXplained, KUT’s Mose Buchele reports. 

Introducing ATXplained

Nov 20, 2015

Every day at KUT, we try to think about what you want to know. That’s what drives the decisions we make about the stories we tell. But we wanted to try an experiment to bring you, the audience, closer to the news and storytelling we do at KUT.

So we’re starting a project called ATXplained. Get it? Say it faster. There you go.

The project starts with a simple question: What are you curious about?

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