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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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.”

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.

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