The national Amber Alert system, which highlights when children go missing, is the subject of a new original documentary streaming on Peacock TV.

Called Amber: The Girl Behind the Alert, the show recounts the history of the Amber Alert and its origins in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The Amber Alert broadcasts across 50 states when a child goes missing, with details that include the child's appearance and possible abductors. The system has led to the recovery of more than 1,000 missing children.

The show delves into the case that inspired its creation: the 1996 abduction of Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old who was kidnapped on January 13 while riding her bike in Arlington, Texas.

She was reportedly taken by a man driving a black pickup truck, but there was little for police to do but search the surrounding area.

Her remains were found four days later by a man walking his dog, in a stream of water that was eight miles away from where she was abducted. An autopsy determined she died of stab wounds to the neck. The case remains unsolved to this day.

The documentary includes never-before-seen footage of Amber's family leading up to and after her disappearance, as well as an interview with Amber's mother.

It also interviews Fort Worth resident Diana Simone, a massage therapist who saw the story on the news and called a local radio station, urging them to air details about the child's disappearance and the suspect’s vehicle, so that those driving could take part in the search, too.

Eventually, this idea became the Amber Alert (which stands for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response).

The alert was used for the first time in 1998, when eight-year-old Rae-Leigh Bradbury of Arlington was abducted by her babysitter. She was missing for 13 hours.

The documentary interviews Bradbury's mother, Patricia Sokolowski, who recalls when the alert was sent out that evening and a driver called in to report that he had seen the babysitter on a local highway.

"That’s her!" the driver says in 911 audio, played in the documentary. "I can't believe it."

The next day, Patricia and baby Rae-Leigh were reunited.

There's a trailer on Oxygen.com.

Image via Megan Thee Stallion/Instagram; photo by Ramona Rosales for Forbes

Texas' hottest rapper Megan Thee Stallion makes history with new Forbes cover

one hot issue

Hot Girl Megan Thee Stallion is having another red-hot year.

Fresh off dropping her sophomore studio album Traumazine (one that she calls "vulnerable") and hosting Saturday Night Live, the Texas native has made history as the first Black woman to grace the cover of Forbes 30 Under 30 Magazine.

In the new issue, Megan (27) discusses the pressure of releasing a highly anticipated follow-up album, her work ethic (“I’ll take a break when I’m dead,” she tells Forbes), and being authentic as a brand: “I cannot fake it,” she says. “If I’m not naturally into it, I don’t want to sell it.”

Megan Thee Stallion Forbes cover 30 Under 30The Texas native makes quite the cover model.Image via Megan Thee Stallion/Instagram

In a revealing article, Forbes writer Jabari Young crafts a timeline that succinctly captures Megan's astonishing rocket to the top:

"Before she was Megan Thee Stallion, she was Megan Pete. Her mother, Holly Thomas, a bill collector and aspiring rapper, raised her in South Park, a Black neighborhood in Houston. By 2016, Megan was studying nursing at Prairie View A&M, one of the largest historically Black colleges in America, while creating hip-hop videos on YouTube. In 2018, she caught the ear of hip-hop manager Travis Farris, who first heard about Megan from Houston strippers who vouched for her sound."

Fast forward to 2022, where Megan has earned a legion of fans (Hotties) worldwide; been featured in Forbes twice; landed lucrative deals with Nike, Revlon, Cash App, Popeyes, and Frito-Lay; and magazine covers such as Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. She's now worth some $13 million, per Forbes, and has also netted a deal with Netflix to produce content. (Oh, and she finally got that diploma, too.)

Despite intense personal losses and slights from other superstars, Megan has risen to the point where she'll soon be as synonymous as her idol, fellow Houston native Beyoncé.

“She’s so empowering and so sexy,” rapper Cardi B tells Forbes. “She’s mega-million Megan.”

Sounds like Texas' Hot Girl may have a new moniker.

Courtesy photo

Documentary digs down on Barney, the purple dinosaur created in Texas

Purple News

Hit children's TV series Barney & Friends, which was created by a Texas schoolteacher and filmed around the Dallas area in the '90s, is the subject of a new documentary airing on Peacock.

Called I Love You, You Hate Me, it's a two-part series debuting on Wednesday, October 12 that documents the mixed feelings that the lovable purple dinosaur drew.

Barney was created by Sheryl Leach as a way to keep her son, who was enchanted with dinosaurs, entertained. It started out in 1988 as a home release called Barney and the Backyard Gang. That became Barney & Friends which debuted on PBS in 1992 and aired through 2010.

The show was filmed in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, first in Allen, then the Studios at Las Colinas in Irving, then to a space in Carrollton.

The Peacock documentary was produced by Scout Productions, the company behind Netflix's Queer Eye.

I Love You, You Hate Me is a limited series chronicling the rise and fall of Barney the Dinosaur’s furious backlash — and what it says about the human need to hate. From Barney-bashing to frat parties to homicidal video games, something in American society broke into a million pieces, and it’s never been put together again… or is this just who we were all along?

Scout senior VP Joel Chiodi tellsTV Insider that the show traces the creation of the character and inadvertently helped sow the seeds of modern-day hate culture, stating that it "unpacks how a children’s character who stood for inclusion, understanding, and kindness birthed a movement of anger and criticism that threatened the show, its creators, and their futures."

A trailer gives a peek into how the backlash affected Leach, with quotes from luminaries such as Al Roker and Bill Nye the Science Guy. Leach's son Patrick was sentenced to 15 years in jail in 2015 for shooting his neighbor in Malibu, California following an argument.

This is not the first Dallas-Fort Worth subject for director Tommy Avallone, who also produced a documentary on North Texas metal band GWAR.

Photo courtesy of Feels So Good

Staple Austin screen printer and record label rebrands for inclusivity

Feels So Right

Naming a company Fine Southern Gentlemen sure gives it something specific and lofty to uphold. When the multifaceted business — which now offers “screen printing, design, retail, vintage, vinyl and good times” — was just booking shows and selling tees 15 years ago, it was just two guys: best friends Justin Weems and Anthony Sanchez. Two fine, Southern gentlemen.

With the addition of business partner Dan Henderson, a growing team, expanding interests, and a new location in South Austin, 2022 feels like time to make a change. The company has rebranded to Feels So Good, a moniker that sticks to the abbreviation FSG.

“After moving into our newest shop, I remember finally just stopping and looking around one day at the 40ish people that were working in the shop around me. I realized that at least half the staff, if not more, were female, trans or non-binary. It was time for a change,” said Weems in a press release.

“Feels So Good represents everything that we’re trying to achieve, whether that’s the tee we’re making for you, or the experience you’re having at one of our events,” he said. “It better represents the people that work here and the 100+ artists and vendors that contribute to our store.”

The name is not completely new to the company, which adopted it first for its record label, launched in June of 2019. The goal was to further commit in collaborations between the merchandiser and its artist clients. Some artists featured in upcoming events include Rattlesnake Milk, JD Clark & The Stuck in the Mud Band, The Bad Lovers, Loteria, Aaron McDonnell.

One of those upcoming events is the “FSG Rebrand x Coming Out Party.” The November 12 event is as yet a mystery, but hints at live performances and renews the Feels So Good Fest of 2021. The “fest” featured a dozen artists, more than 20 vendors, tattoos, haircuts, and tarot readings. Throw in a rebrand and that’ll be another can’t miss event.

On a more regular basis, free FSG Sessions will be held every Thursday at 6 pm, featuring local musicians, and keeping the party going with drinks. The first ticketed show since the announcement invites veteran and well-loved Texas rockers ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail Of Dead on September 3, along with two other groups, American Sharks and MontaZ.

A week later on September 10, FSG teams up with another recently-rebranded booking agency, Resound, for a “Block Party,” celebrating their shared vicinity at Alpine Street. The free party puts more than 10 bands on two stages, with a vendor market, food, and drinks.

The store is staying open and mostly as-is — not ruling out any kind of natural evolution, but not throwing the screen printer out with the bathwater, so to speak. Of course, there will be some new merch to commemorate the change.

The shop is open Monday through Friday from 10 am to 6 pm, and weekends from 11 am to 7 pm. Visitors can partake in coffee and “rotating refreshments” and coffee by Fase Cafe from Friday to Sunday, 11 am to 4 pm. More information is available at fsgprints.com.

Fine Southern Gentlemen is adopting the name of its existing record label, Feels So Good.

Feels So Good exterior Austin
Photo courtesy of Feels So Good
Fine Southern Gentlemen is adopting the name of its existing record label, Feels So Good.
Photo by Jessica Pages

SXSW unveils first round of featured speakers and sessions for 2023 festival

Get This

The beauty of South by Southwest is that attendees make their own lineups, even on the conference side. Still, there’s so much to look at every day, it helps that the festival chooses featured speakers to narrow things down.

On Tuesday, August 30, the storied Austin festival revealed a cast of 13 featured speakers for 2023, featuring personalities and experts in sports, business, music, food, and more.

The conference events — less talked about than the flashy music and film festival events, which are technically all under the former umbrella — include more business and information sharing than entertainment, in several formats. Keynotes are presentations in the form of conversations with a wide range of recognizable guests, often visiting to perform at some other time. Panels are slightly different, more topic based, and are mostly picked by the community. Workshops, mentor sessions, and meetups are more personally involved.

This leaves featured sessions, which the conference sets aside for industry leaders. Following 25 tracks including huge topics like civic engagement and niche ones like psychedelics, these presentations are all about finding the zeitgeist, and likely interrupting it with innovative questions and lenses.

Featured speakers (by individual) and sessions (by topic) include:

  • Kyle Andrew, Allyson Felix, and Gloria Riviera: Andrew, chief brand officer at Athleta will talk with track and field Olympian Felix, who also works in athletic wear, and reporter Riviera, who podcasts about childcare. About what? It’s anyone’s guess with this eclectic group.
  • Amy Gallo: Gallo is the woman you want on your side at work. Along with contributing to the Harvard Business Review and co-hosting its Women At Work podcast, she has her own book coming out soon called Getting Along: How to Work with Anyone (Even Difficult People).
  • Sophia Roe: James Beard Award-winning chef Sophia Roe hosts Counter Space, a Vice TV series that examines the world through food; not just culture but innovation and climate change. Her explorations are mainly in the name of inclusivity, sustainability, and food equity.
  • “2050: Digital Identity is a Human Right”: Working from home, staying in touch with friends, or even just using a site that requires a log-in, everyone who uses computers and smartphones has a digital identity, and Unstoppable Domains senior Vice President Sandy Carter wants that ubiquity acknowledged.
  • “Data Privacy After Roe v. Wade”: The last thing many U.S. citizens want right now is to leave a record that they may become pregnant…and not deliver. Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood, Alexandra Reeve Givens of the Center for Democracy & Technology, and Nabiha Syed The Markup talk protections.
  • “RTR 2023: The Neuroscience of Self-Renewal”: Resilience has been a trending topic for a long time, but in this talk by Chief Technology Officer of Everbridge John Maeda, it’s narrowed down to self-renewal. Can trusting that process help people overcome upheaval?

The rest of the featured speakers announced in a press release containing the above developments are Ian Beacraft, Rohit Bhargava, Henry Coutinho-Mason, Bryony Cole, Alex Naghavi, Chris Hyams, Daniel Lubetzky, Guy Moot, Douglas Rushkoff, Joost Van Druenen, Amy Webb, and Molly White. It also details a featured session called “Design for a Better Future.”

The 2023 South by Southwest conference will take place March 10-19. Current selection processes include music and film submissions, and pitch entries. Registration to attend (starting at $595) is open at sxsw.com.

artisteer/Getty Images

Austin American-Statesman journalists push back against job cuts

Food for thought

Journalists at the country’s largest chain of newspapers, including some at the Austin American-Statesman, are making news of their own by pushing back against yet more layoffs at the company.

On August 12, Gannett carried out layoffs across its more than 200 daily newspapers, including the American-Statesman and USA Today, and its more than 1,000 weekly newspapers. It’s the latest in a string of job cuts aimed at saving money amid disappointing revenue for Gannett’s digital platforms and continually slipping revenue for its print products.

Gannett hasn’t disclosed the number of layoffs in the recent round. But one media report indicates more than 80 Gannett employees lost their jobs. It’s unclear whether any Statesman employees were affected. Statesman reporter Katie Hall, who chairs the local chapter of the NewsGuild labor union, says no workers in her newsroom had been laid off as of August 16.

The layoffs came a day after Gannett journalists staged a “lunch out” via Zoom to protest ongoing job cuts. Sixty percent of newsroom employees at the Statesman supported the “lunch out,” according to Hall.

The NewsGuild represents over 1,500 journalists at more than 50 Gannett-owned newsrooms across the country, including the Statesman newsroom. More than half of those newsrooms participated in the “lunch out.”

“The purpose of the lunch out action was to show Gannett that we are fed up with the company’s decision to shrink its newsrooms year after year,” Hall, who covers local courts, tells CultureMap. “It’s time for Gannett to see pushback — not just from their newsrooms, but also from the communities we cover — when they lay people off.”

“Our journalists provide a crucial service when we keep our readers informed,” she adds. “Everyone knows that readers suffer when Gannett cuts journalists, and it’s time for Gannett to hear it.”

As for whether the NewsGuild will hold more “lunch outs,” Hall says that depends on the actions of Gannett executives.

“If the company invests in journalists, then they have nothing to fear,” she declares.

In 2019, the owner of the Statesman, GateHouse Media, combined with Gannett in a $1.4 billion deal. A year earlier, GateHouse had purchased the Statesman for $47.5 million from Cox Enterprises.

In an interesting twist, Cox recently agreed to buy online news platform Axios for $525 million. Axios operates a number of local editions, including one in Austin.

Jon Schleuss, president of the NewsGuild, complains that Gannett continues to prioritize investors and executives over journalists.

“In contrast, local journalists are organizing all across the country because of their deep commitment to their work, their communities and their newsrooms. Well-staffed and fully functional newsrooms are a critical component of democracy, especially in an election year,” Schleuss says. “Gannett — or any company — cannot do layoffs at newly unionized newsrooms without proving economic exigency, which can’t exist when executives and shareholders are pocketing millions.”

A Gannett spokesperson calls the staffing reductions “incredibly difficult.”

“We’ve been transparent about the need to evolve our operations and cost structure in line with our growth strategy while also needing to take swift action given the challenging economic environment,” the spokesperson says.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Charming Austin suburb is the fastest-growing city in the country, plus more top stories

hot headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From Georgetown to Brenham, and of course inside Austin proper, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. Charming Austin suburb is the fastest-growing city in the country, with neighbors close behind. Georgetown had a 14.4-percent population increase from 2021 to 2022, bringing the city's total population to more than 86,500 residents.

2. Austin dethroned from top spot in new ranking of top summer travel destinations for 2023. Some Austinites are happy to hear the summer will be less crowded, but tourist revenue may suffer.

3. Lengendary Texas ranch resort makes waves on the market with $15 million price tag. It's a stretch to call it rustic, but this resort for sale includes horse stables, wildflowers, and an organic farm.

4. This is how big Austin apartments get for $1,500 a month. Unsurprisingly, it's not as much square footage as you can get elsewhere in Texas, but it's still not even close to Manhattan.

5. Here are the top 7 things to do in Austin this holiday weekend. The Memorial Day weekend brings chances to try great barbecue, take a walk with faeries, and hear lots of live music.

Dip your toes into these 7 Austin pools with passes, snacks, and summer events

Wet Hot Austin Summer

Memorial Day is here, which means so are the days of sitting in a lounge chair and sweating while looking unreasonably fabulous. Whether it's to beat the summer heat or to show off a new swimsuit, Austinites may have more options than they think to take a swim at the many pools around town. Even if you haven't committed to an overnight stay, most hotels offer day passes, and some even offer other deals or poolside programming.

One great way to find passes not just to pools around town, but also to spas and other hotel amenities, is to browse ResortPass. (Not sponsored, just cool.) There are 26 Austin options on the site right now.

But we wanted to let you know what's going on beyond the pass — who will set you up for a great meal, who lets you drink out of a coconut, and whose views (or lack thereof) provide the best ambiance for your day off. Some of our choices aren't even on the platform.

Go grab your sandals, and save us a towel.

Greater Austin YMCA
Let's start with the less glamorous before we break out the poolside fashion. The YMCA is a family staple for a reason, and if your goal is just to get in the water regularly throughout the summer, especially with kids, it's a great place to start. There are "interactive hours" at the outdoor pools (more fun than swimming laps) at the East Communities, Hays Communities, Northwest Family, Southwest Family, and Springs Family YMCAs, as well as the YMCA at Camp Moody. The Y is semi-affordable; It would probably be cheaper to visit a hotel pool once or twice, but a Y membership includes a month of access, guest passes, and much more, and may replace your gym membership for the summer. $69 per month, with age and household discounts. austinymca.org

Hotel Van Zandt
If your pool visit doesn't include spritz and giggles, why are you even there? Hotel Van Zandt is opening up its stylish rooftop pool for the "Spritz & Giggles Poolside Happy Hour & Sunset Swim" event series. Every Monday through Thursday, visitors can enjoy $8 frozen Aperol spritzes, $8 specialty cocktails, and a special pool menu with items like a refreshing green salad, pork belly al pastor tacos, and a spicy fried chicken sandwich. Geraldine's, the main restaurant, is right inside for even better drinks, expanded bites, and sometimes live music. Starting at $48 per day for adults, $15 for kids. hotelvanzandt.com

Carpenter Hotel
If one day at the Carpenter Hotel pool is just not enough, the hotel has now added monthly passes. In addition to unlimited access to the secluded pool in the Zilker neighborhood, a pass gets a $30 discount for the new monthly BBQ Pool Parties (bringing attendance down to $25). That will include a great spread of less commonly seen barbecue items like grilled bay scallops, mushroom skewers, elotes, deviled potato salad, and more. Monthly pass holders also get to bring one child under 8 for free. $40 daily, $200 monthly. Both Monday through Thursday. carpenterhotel.com

South Congress Hotel
The South Congress Hotel is right in the middle of where many Austinites want to be on a summer day, if it weren't so dang hot. This rooftop pool solves that problem in style, with daily pool passes every day of the week, as well as cabana rentals. Café No Sé supplies poolside drinks and snacks, and downstairs, Austin's Best New Restaurant Maie Day offers a hearty meal after a day of napping in the sun. Cabanas can be rented for four people and include self-parking, bottled water, and a bottle of champagne or bucket of High Noon. Days for $40 and cabanas for $300 on weekdays; days for $75 and cabanas for $400 on weekends. southcongresshotel.com

Hotel Viata
Hotel Viata is a bit of a sleeper hotel among Austin boutiques, as it's located a little beyond West Lake Hills. Still, if you want a taste of Italy, the drive to this retreat will be worth it. Not to mention, with the extra room these downtown hotels can't offer, a pool pass includes access to a hot tub, fire pits, and great views of the hills around the city. Pool passes are available, but if you want to see it for free before you spend, wait for June 10; The hotel invites guests 21 and up to check out the pool for free at the "Summer Festa in Piscina" party, with a "Taste of Italy" add-on ($55) for Aperol Spritz, limoncello lemon drops, and negronis all day. $45 per day for adults, $25 for children. resortpass.com

Wax Myrtle's
This rooftop bar and pool is known for its never-ending events calendar, and of course that energy extends to poolside entertainment. There will be live music on the weekends, plus live DJ sets on Saturday nights, alongside whatever other programming happens to be going on inside. Even if it's a do-nothing day, these large, over-the-top drinks will give you a delicious challenge. The "Boot Scootin Fruity" mixes rum, an aperitivo, hibiscus, and lime in a cowboy hat punch bowl ($90); the luxe "Mojito 75" combines Moët & Chandon with rum and mojito must-haves in a disco ball ($230); and an unnamed cocktail is worth trying just to enjoy it from a real coconut. Starting at $15 for adults, $10 for children, and more for daybeds and cabanas. waxmyrtles.com

Austin Motel
Perhaps one of the best known pools in Austin for its retro vibes, fun events, and accessibility to on-foot wanderers is the Austin Motel. This is a great, less expensive choice that's probably more fun for casual pool revelers who would feel a little put out by having to dress up and behave in a more luxe hotel setting. There are also frequent poolside events at this motel, like the free "Bounce Motel" series with live DJs, or the body-positive "Chunky Dunk." The pool is offers daily passes every day, even when there's nothing on the calendar. $25 on weekdays, $45 on weekends, or $600 in three-and-a-half-month "waves." austinmotel.com

Carpenter Hotel pool

Photo by Andrea Calo

Austinites don't need to stay at a hotel to be invited to the pool. (Pictured: The Carpenter Hotel)

6 Austin museums are offering free admission for military families all summer long

spread the museum love

Half a dozen Austin museums are honoring active-duty military personnel and their families with free admission through the Blue Star Museums initiative, May 20 through September 4, 2023.

Established by the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, and the U.S. Department of Defense, the Blue Star Museums program annually provides military families free access to 2,000 museums nationwide throughout the summer. The program begins yearly on Armed Forces Day in May and ends on Labor Day.

Free admission is extended to personnel currently serving in the U.S Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard (including those in the Reserve), and all National Guardsman. Members of the U.S. Public Health Commissioned Corps and NOAA Commissioned Corps are also included in the program.

Those who qualify can use their military ID to bring up to five family members – including relatives of those currently deployed. More information about qualifications can be found here.

There is no limit on the number of participating museums that qualifying families may visit. Admission for non-active military veterans, however, is not included.

According to the National Endowment for the Arts website, the initiative was created to help "improve the quality of life for active duty military families" with a specific focus on children. The site states two million have had a parent deployed since 2001.

"Blue Star Museums was created to show support for military families who have faced multiple deployments and the challenges of reintegration," the website says. "This program offers these families a chance to visit museums this summer when many will have limited resources and limited time to be together."

Among Austin's participating museums, the Blanton Museum of Art recently held its grand opening celebration to debut their new grounds, complete with a new large mural by Cuban-American artist Carmen Herrera.

“As a museum that has long been at the forefront of collecting work by artists of Latin American descent, as well as the place where Ellsworth Kelly realized his last great work of art, entering the collection at this moment marks a high point in my long career," Herrera said.

Here's a look at all the museums in Austin that participate in the Blue Star Museums initiative.

For those looking to take a drive around Central Texas, the Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum and Taylor's Moody Museum are also participants in the Blue Star Museums initiative.

More information about Blue Star Museums and a full list of participants can be found on arts.gov.