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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Salvador Castro for KUT

Update: Spamarama will make its return this year, the event's co-founder says, on July 6 at Moontower Saloon in South Austin. 

Spam, the canned meat product, helped Allied soldiers win World War II and later helped baby boomers and their parents stretch that food budget a little further.

But Spam also served as the centerpiece of one of Austin’s odder and more popular festivals: Spamarama.

Julia Reihs / KUT

Dear Austin,

I have a confession to make: I have misled you. It’s not something any reporter wants to say, but here we are.

I did it in a story I wrote a few years ago, after a listener asked about Austin’s claim to be the “Live Music Capital of the World.” 

Hazel O'Neil for KUT

Nearly 30 people leaned against the railing on the second floor of a bar made out of shipyard containers. It was a warm Saturday night in September. Down the street, people sat on the front porch of Icenhauer’s, which pours grilled-pineapple-infused tequila.

Hazel O'Neil for KUT

After moving into the Highland neighborhood in North Central Austin, James Arnold got curious about the names of nearby streets.

“Miranda, Esther, Lisa, Rufus – mostly women,” Arnold says. “I think Rufus is the only one that’s a male.”

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Every weekday, hundreds of thousands of commuters flood Austin-area roads and highways with more traffic than they’re designed to handle. Some commutes are worse than others, depending on the time and where a driver is heading.

The Top 10 ATXplained Stories Of 2018

Dec 28, 2018
The downtown Austin skyline and fall foliage colors.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

In the last year, more than 1,100 questions and responses were submitted to KUT's ATXplained project. The idea behind ATXplained? You ask, we answer.

Hazel O'Neil for KUT

A couple weeks ago, we asked you to help us answer a question for ATXplained.

Sarah Edens moved to Austin about six months ago. She wanted to know: "When can you call yourself a 'real' Austinite?"

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning in Austin and I’m struggling with a recorder in one hand and a mic in the other. The rest of me is riding a mule. That’s right: a mule.

The scene gets weirder. The man riding another mule next to me is dressed as Santa Claus. His name is Sam Grey Horse.

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

On Thursday, we told you about the science behind Austin's amazing (and unusual) fall foliage this year for our ATXplained project. Some of those trees have already started to shed their colorful leaves.

Many of you took some great photos of the display.

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

Austin is known for a lot of things, but fall foliage is not one of them. That is, until this year. 

Martin do Nascimento for KUT

What makes a “real” Austinite?

Montinique Monroe for KUT

Lindsay Nakashima has lived in her East Austin home for about five years. As far as she knows, hers is the only house around that came with a basement. Nakashima says a previous owner dug out the space so he could park his car under the house.

Austin History Center

The Austin City Limits Music Festival, which kicks off tomorrow at Zilker Park, has long drawn comparisons to Austin’s first big festival: Aqua Fest.

What ever happened to Aqua Fest? And why did it stop?

When we started our ATXplained project more than two years ago, we wanted to get our audience more involved with the journalism we do at KUT.

Since then, we’ve done more than 40 stories based on your questions about Austin’s people, places and history. You’ve asked questions about our city that we would never have thought to ask — and the resulting stories have taught us that there are so many more amazing stories to tell.

Now we want to bring you even closer to the work that we do. 

How Does This Aquarium Fish Thrive In Waller Creek?

Jun 28, 2018
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Austin is the unique home to a thriving wild population of one of the most common pet fish in the world: the variable platy fish (on sale for $1.59 at Petco).

The platy is colorful, cheap and now the most abundant fish in Waller Creek, which runs about seven miles from North Austin down to Lady Bird Lake. There is no other known established wild population in the U.S.

Julia Reihs / KUT

When it's hot in Austin, you just want to go somewhere to cool off, somewhere you can take a swim and forget the oppressive heat that lingers for six months of the year.

There are lots of great spots.

But there's one place you definitely cannot go swimming: Lady Bird Lake (Town Lake, if you're OG).

Julia Reihs / KUT

Bee Cave or Bee Caves? Whether discussing the city or the road, it seems the names have vexed Austin-area residents for years.

Even more vexing? They may have been misnamed the whole time.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

At the end of Colorado Street on the north bank of Lady Bird Lake stands a six-story brick tower.

What's Up With The Odd-Looking Tower On 51st Street?

May 14, 2018
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Anyone looking down while flying in or out of Austin has likely seen the odd tower with a bowl-shaped top and uneven paint job rising above the Mueller neighborhood.

The landmark puzzled KUT listener Ryan Ellerd Jones, so he asked about it for our ATXplained series.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Farm-to-market and ranch-to-market roads have helped rural Texans get around since the 1940s. But what happens when these roads become completely surrounded by the city, with fewer ranches and farms on route? The seemingly odd road names caught one listener's curiosity.

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

In the median of Highway 183 near the Austin airport, there’s a scraggly patch of mesquite trees. The grass around it is overgrown. In the shade of those trees is the final resting place of at least six people — buried more than a 100 years ago. The historical marker at the little graveyard says it’s the Davidson-Littlepage Cemetery.

Now, as the cars zoom by within feet of the graves, a massive construction project looms nearby.

Julia Reihs / KUT

You can't not notice the trees that line the paths on Austin's many hike and bike trails. But have you ever noticed a fair amount of them are numbered? They're on small metal tags nailed to the trunks.

Writer Will Neely noticed them while he was running along the Butler Hike and Bike Trail, so he asked about it for our ATXplained project, a series where KUT answers questions about life in Austin.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Ben Hamill was confused. Down the street from his house in Brentwood, a building was going up, and he and his wife couldn’t quite place what it was. It looked like an apartment or a condo, as far as they could tell, with floor-to-ceiling windows, some cubist-looking eaves and all the trappings of a typical condo. Then they put up a sign: STORAGE.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The MoPac express lanes opened in 2017, years behind schedule, to offer a faster option for drivers willing to pay a toll. But what if you pay and the lane is no faster – or even slower – than the main lanes? 

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

On the floor of Austin airport, right by the baggage claim, there is a cryptic map made of terrazzo tile. It represents downtown Austin, but not quite as it is today. The story of how it came about reveals much about Austin’s past – and maybe its present.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

If you’ve crossed the street at a handful of intersections in Austin recently, you may have noticed a new voice beckoning you to walk. It doesn’t sound like the typical robotic voiceover you may hear on a bus or at older crosswalks.

It got one of our listeners, Jenny Stirrat, curious.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

When Eric Howard drives by the building at 4400 Shoal Creek Boulevard, he can’t help but think of Indiana Jones.

Specifically, the final shot of Raiders of the Lost Ark, when the U.S. government loads the Ark of the Covenant into a crate and then carts it off into a vast warehouse, presumably filled with similarly sequestered treasures.

Colter Sonneville has become an evangelist for drinking in public in Austin.
Austin Price / KUT

Colter Sonneville had a hunch that it might be legal to walk down the street with an open beer in most of Austin’s residential neighborhoods. It started when he noticed some big signs around Chicon and East Cesar Chavez streets.

“The sign says, 'No alcohol consumption on public streets/sidewalks and pedestrian way designated area,’” he says. “‘Open glass containers prohibited.’”

Dan Brooks is moving to Austin from Philadelphia next week. But before he got here, he wanted some reading material.

“I like to know as much as possible about where I am, what community I’m a part of, where I’m living," he said. "It’s important for me to have an idea of the space that I’m occupying, and books are generally one good way to learn about a place.”

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

About seven years ago, Lynn Meredith and her husband moved into a high-rise downtown. They can see the state Capitol from the building, and over the years, Meredith has watched as new skyscrapers have sprung up around the Capitol, while other construction plans have fallen through.

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