AUSTIN, Texas — Tony Plohetski is a national award-winning investigative journalist, writer and broadcaster whose work spans print, television and digital mediums. In his more than two decades of reporting in Austin, he has chronicled the region’s biggest stories, and his investigative and accountability reporting has led to indictments and prompted new state laws and other government reform.
He joined the Austin American-Statesman in 2000. Since 2013, he has worked in partnership with KVUE, where he is the station’s senior reporter.
Plohetski has received more than two dozen national and state journalism honors, including a national Edward R. Murrow Award, three National Headliner awards and the prestigious Hillman Prize in broadcasting honoring journalists “who pursue investigative reporting and deep storytelling in the service of common good.”
In 2021, he was the inaugural winner of the Dan Rather Medal for News & Guts for journalistic courage, one of three finalists for the Michael Kelly Award for "journalists whose work exemplifies the fearless pursuit and expression of truth" and was named Star Reporter of the Year by Texas Managing Editors, an honor for which he was twice runner up in the past decade. He also has received regional Emmy awards for general assignment reporting, environmental reporting and continuing coverage of a news event.
In 2020, after months of investigative reporting, Plohetski revealed the death of Javier Ambler II while in the custody of the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office. His investigation of the agency’s ties with a reality TV show revealed other questionable force encounters. The show was canceled, and the Texas Legislature imposed a ban on law enforcement agencies partnering with such productions.
Meet Tony Plohetski
The prior year, Plohetski produced a TV and newspaper series on the explosion of rock-mining quarries in the Texas Hill Country and how a lack of regulations threatens some of the state’ most cherished land. He received a National Headliner award for environmental broadcast reporting and a regional Emmy award for the series “Left in the Dust.”
In 2018, Plohetski became a trusted authority during a rash of bombing attacks in Austin during a 19-day span. He was the first to report in the middle of the night that the suspect killed himself as police closed in and later gained exclusive details about the bomber's audio confession.
His work for the Statesman was showcased in a portfolio that was awarded a Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists, was named Texas Star Breaking News Report of the Year and received a Charles E. Green Award from the Headliners Foundation of Texas.
His live reporting for KVUE was part of a composite that received a first-place award for breaking news reporting from the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters and a Charles E. Green Award from the Texas Headliners Foundation in the broadcast division. Judges cited “his ability to work sources, get confirmation from multiple sources and report it on the fly ... It gave viewers a chance to see how journalism works.”
A year after the attacks, Plohetski wrote and co-produced the KVUE documentary "Stopping the Austin Bomber" and authored a three-day serial narrative, "19 Days," for the Statesman that provided the most detailed account of how law enforcement found the attacker. The series received recognition from the national Society for Features Journalism.
Other high-profile work in recent years included his 2016 investigation into the violent arrest of Breaion King, a Black elementary teacher who was subjected to force by an officer following a traffic offense. The case sparked wide reforms within the department and led to an HBO documentary, “Traffic Stop,” that was nominated for an Academy Award and featured a cameo of Plohetski.
From hurricanes to mass shootings, Plohetski has also been on the front lines of many of the biggest regional and national news stories. He waded the streets of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and was one of the first reporters to arrive in Sutherland Springs in 2017 after a gunman killed more than two dozen people in a church.
Plohetski has also been honored by the National Association of LGBTQ Journalists, the national Associated Press Sports Editors and has received a Texas Gavel Award for criminal justice reporting and an Anson Jones M.D. Award for health reporting from the Texas Medical Association. Gannett honored him in 2020 and 2021 for Individual Achievement, and in those same two years, the Austin Alliance for Women in Media named him Journalist of the Year.
He is routinely invited to speak to college journalism classes at the University of Texas and St. Edward’s University, where he has served as an adjunct professor. He graduated from the University of Mississippi, where he was one of less than 1% of students each year to receive the Taylor Medal for undergraduate academic achievement.
Plohetski has also appeared numerous times on national news outlets and every major cable news channel, including CNN, MSNBC and HLN. He has also served as a case expert for ABC's "Nightline," CBS's "48 Hours" and the Investigation Discovery channel.
He and his husband, Wroe Jackson, live in Austin with their dog, Calvin, an adoptee from the Austin Animal Center.