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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A much more vibrant Drag.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Daphne Glasgow gets nostalgic when she thinks of The Drag, the strip of shops and restaurants nestled along the UT Austin campus on Guadalupe Street. On Saturday mornings, she and her middle-school friends would walk up and down the street taking pictures of students and strangers passing by.

"Will You Marry Me?" is painted on the side of the Martinez Brothers Taxidermy Shop in South Austin last summer.
Hazel O'Neil for KUT

It all started with a mural.

“I just remember asking: What is the deal with this mural?” Tony Garcia says. “I mean, was there a message to it? What’s behind it?” 

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

If you're from Austin, voting in a grocery store probably feels like a normal thing. But to those who are newer to town, it's unusual.

Yorkie Louie dances at a club on Sixth Street.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

At a club on Sixth Street just before midnight on a Saturday, there is anarchy: A woman dressed as a mermaid climbs onstage in front of the DJ booth, holding a large inflatable ice cream cone. Someone licks it. A man on the dance floor is dressed as Santa Claus; a woman wears furry, white bell bottoms.

A road sign says: "You're not a candle...Don't drive lit."
Photo: Gabriel C. Pérez/Illustration: Matt Largey / KUT

Traffic is one constant of life in Austin. But every so often, there’s something that breaks the monotony of brake lights: a sign reminding you that "You’re not a candle, so don’t drive lit" or "Designate a driver BE-VO the game."

Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from under the Congress Avenue bridge.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This has been a big year for our ATXplained project. We answered more than 20 audience questions about Austin's people, places and culture. Here's a look back at some of the most popular stories we produced so far. 

Christmas lights and a disco ball display on 37th Street.
Michael Minasi / KUT

The Christmas light displays on a small strip of 37th Street just off Guadalupe are anything but normal. If you’re heading out this year, you’ll likely find a volcano exploding with electric light in one front yard. You’ll also run into Baby Yoda, a pole-dancing Santa and at least a few aliens.

Hazel O'Neil

TICKETS | Get your tickets here

Friends: Last year, our ATXplained project brought seven brand-new stories based on your questions to the stage.

John Lawhon
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

When Christine Hannon was getting married a few years ago, she found herself at her local post office on East Sixth Street a lot.

Richard Tuttle, a longtime school crossing guard in Southeast Austin, died last week.
Lynda M. González / KUT

At the intersection of Palo Blanco and Pleasant Valley, near Mendez Middle School, there’s a makeshift memorial: Signs, balloons, candles and handwritten notes have been hung to pay homage to the man who guided school kids to safety at that intersection for the past 15 years.

Barton Springs Pool on Sept. 28, 2016.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

With unseasonably hot temperatures in Austin this fall, it’s a great time to take a swim in the city’s premier swimming hole.

Barton Springs Pool is a constant 70 degrees, more than cool enough to help you chill out no matter how hot it is outside. But that’s also chilly enough to make it kind of uncomfortable to get into at first. That led Susan Somers-Willett to ask our ATXplained project this question:

What’s the best way to enter the icy waters of Barton Springs?

How Did Lake Travis' Sometimes Islands Get Their Name?

Sep 26, 2019
The Sometimes Islands in Lake Travis
Reshma Kirpalani / KUT

Every summer, more than 200,000 people visit Lake Travis to boat, swim and get some sun. But longtime Austin resident Robert Baumgardner is more interested in the geography of the lake than recreation. Specifically, he's interested in the Sometimes Islands.

People look down at their phones outside Star Bar
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Another weekend has passed, and for some people in Austin that meant tailgating at the UT-LSU game or heading to local bars. Many used ride-hailing services like Uber or Lyft to get home, presumably in an effort to avoid drinking and driving. Places like Rainey Street are often clogged at closing time with people looking for their rides.

Lifeguards Quinlin Taylor, left, and Katie Mallet
Michael Minasi for KUT

Many Austin pools close this weekend, ahead of school re-opening next week. But there are still a few more days to get in a swim at your neighborhood pool. And while you're there, maybe you'll hear what Madeline Fening hears when it's time for people to get out of the pool for a five-minute break:

Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from under the Congress Avenue bridge in 2012.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Every night beginning in late March and into early September, nearly 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from the Congress Avenue bridge in Austin. The bats aren’t the only thing making a nightly exit, though: Bat guano, otherwise known as poop, makes its exit as well.

MoPac
Luis Perales for KUT

Traffic is a constant on highways in Austin, no matter what side of town you live on. But there’s one thing that isn’t a constant on those highways: billboards. Some, like I-35 are littered with them. Others, like MoPac, have none. For some drivers, that absence is noticeable. 

Some people are complaining about the appearance of the "crown" at the top of Austin's tallest building, The Independent.
Richie Loria / KUT

The Independent, at 301 West Ave. in downtown Austin, is the city's newest tallest building. Some call it the "Jenga tower" because of its jagged appearance – shapes jutting out from the sides of the building.

The 59-story luxury apartment tower is definitely attention-getting, and some eyes are drawn all the way to the top – to what looks from afar like a tennis court or one of those nets to stop golf balls at a driving range. 

Why do some Austin drivers think turn indicators are optional? Why are bugs so big in Austin? Are swingers running rampant in Steiner Ranch? 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Cities across the world are celebrating Pride this month with parades and events to honor the queer and trans activists who put their lives on the line for gay liberation during the Stonewall riots of 1969. The event marked the start of the modern gay liberation movement.

But in Austin, the city’s “official” Pride celebration isn’t until August.

Hazel O'Neil for KUT

Lyzz Donelson lives in a quiet neighborhood in Southwest Austin. Occasionally, she hears the rumble of a motorcycle with an unusual rider.

“He’s just this really interesting character that drives through our neighborhood periodically," she says, "and he’s wearing the most outrageous outfits."

Julia Reihs / KUT

When it comes to local businesses, Austinites like to have ownership over the story: How it got started, drama between original business partners, the history and evolution of its roots.

And, of course, gossip.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

For the last decade or so, Austin has been one of the fastest growing cities in the country – last year the city's population grew by about 145 people a day on average. But that number only tells part of the story. The rest of that story – the where – is a proverbial question for our ATXplained project.

So, where are these new Austinites coming from?

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

What’s the first food item that jumps into your head when you think of Texas? BBQ? Queso? Breakfast tacos?

All reasonable choices. But you’d be missing the obvious, a food item that bears the name of the state: Texas toast.

Austin City Limits is produced at the Moody Theater in downtown Austin.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Austin City Limits is in the middle of taping shows for its 45th season, which will begin airing on PBS stations across the country in October.

The eclectic mix of musicians invited each year to perform for the public television series prompted KUT listener Dana Harada to ask our ATXplained project:

How are musicians selected to record an ACL Live taping? Do they get paid?

Hazel O'Neil for KUT

We want to hear from you about the people around Austin you want to know more about — or the people you think the rest of us should.

Lynda M. González for KUT

Are there people in your life you see all the time, but have never actually met? Sure there are.

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.”

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