During the holiday season, Fort Worth Report journalists are remembering their favorite stories of 2022. Click here to read more essays.

I arrived at the Fort Worth City Council building expecting to observe a redistricting meeting like any other: an hour-long discussion about boundary lines and neighborhoods.

I brought no water, no snack, not even a light jacket to fend off the aggressive air conditioning in City Hall. 

Instead of a simple hour-long discussion, I was treated to a meeting that lasted all day. People cried, yelled, laughed and, eventually, the city leaders in the room arrived at a decision. 

Illustration of a person carrying heart on a calendar.
(Credit | Alexis Allison)

Here’s the thing: I have covered a couple of meetings that have all the elements of a good opera before, so why is this one, and its resulting story, my favorite? Well, the story that I wrote wasn’t just the result of that eight-hour meeting. 

Instead, it was the result of months of reporting. I attended every single meeting the Fort Worth City Council held on redistricting. I talked with residents concerned about the map. I got things wrong, and corrected them. 

By the time I sat down to write the headline, After yelling, accusations and tears, Fort Worth City Council arrives at a redistricting map, I had been on a journey with all the community advocates that also attended every single redistricting meeting. Those advocates generously shared their time with me to explain the history of redistricting in Fort Worth. 

Through telling this story, I learned about how Hispanic residents were historically disenfranchised from city leadership. I learned about small neighborhoods in east Fort Worth that wanted to be united, so that they could better advocate for their needs. I learned about the Como neighborhood and its history. 

Just by attending those meetings, I discovered that the city was improperly posting its agendas, making it even more difficult for residents to participate in public meetings. 

Now, there is a large video screen in City Hall displaying the agendas. I walk by it almost every week. 

A video screen sits inside City Hall. Residents can use the video screen to view the agendas for upcoming city council meetings. (Rachel Behrndt | Fort Worth Report) 

Meeting coverage is often seen as one of the more tedious parts of a journalist’s job. The meetings are often pretty dull and don’t offer the kind of depth of information journalists look for when writing a story. 

But sometimes, a local journalist has the opportunity to be the only person in the room who is asking questions. For that responsibility, I would sit in Fort Worth City Hall all day. 

Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at rachel.behrndt@fortworthreport.org or via TwitterAt the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Rachel BehrndtGovernment Accountability Reporter

Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report in collaboration with KERA. She is a recent graduate of the University of Missouri where she majored in Journalism and Political...