Decibel Heads To Dove Springs

By Blair Waltman-Alexin | Monday, May 29th 2023

The Austin PBS Community Advisory Board has selected Dove Springs as the next area for Decibel to cover through our brand of community-led journalism. But the zip code isn’t the only thing that’s changing.

Decibel will still produce news documentary videos that start and end with community input. But this time we’re going to focus our storytelling on a specific issue, and we’re building a community group to help guide our reporting. We’ll dive into all of that, but first let's look at how we landed in our new location.

Since 2021, the Austin PBS Community Advisory Board, or CAB, has selected Decibel’s reporting area. Roughly 30 people make up this group of diverse individuals from across central Texas who help guide Austin PBS on a variety of matters. Board members pick from three locations that have been underreported by us in the past.

At the May 24, 2023 CAB meeting, we presented three potential coverage locations to board members: San Marcos, Dove Springs, and Bastrop. Two of these, San Marcos and Bastrop, were areas we considered before but weren’t chosen. Dove Springs was a new addition to our list. It’s a location we haven’t covered extensively, but there’s also another reason we included it. And that has to do with a new metric we’re adding to our reporting.

For this next coverage area, we wanted to see what available data could tell us about that community’s needs. This question came up for us after creating the Del Valle Resource Guide. We were months into our reporting when we started creating the guide, after numerous sources told us how helpful something like this would be. And it has been–we’ve distributed hundreds of copies to libraries and schools in the area. But it got us wondering, could we tap into available data early into our reporting to better understand what the community needs while also gathering community input?

Enter 211 Texas. The program is a 24/7 connector to community-based services, assisting callers with everything from rental assistance to literacy resources. Using publicly available data, we could see that Dove Springs was one of the areas in central Texas that produced a high 211 call volume. It’s a community looking for assistance. Considering that, and the fact it was an area we hadn’t covered yet, we wanted to include it in our options to our CAB.

211 call data also told us something else–housing is a major need across central Texas. We looked at call data from the first three months of 2023 for each area we were considering covering. Each month in every community, the bulk of calls received by 211 Texas was for housing assistance, far outstripping other requests. This told us no matter where we went, there would be a high need for information on housing.

cab picks ds 2

An aerial view of houses in Dove Springs from 2020. Decibel will focus its reporting on housing issues in Dove Springs as part of its next community-led reporting project. Drone footage by Mark Alexin.

This led us to the next tweak to our reporting model. Data tells us that this is an issue hundreds of residents are actively seeking assistance on. So when we start reporting on Dove Springs, we plan to focus our reporting on stories about housing. And there’s no shortage of issues in the area, from [houses in flood plains]( "kut article "Two Years After Floods, Dove Springs Residents Are Still Waiting on City Buyouts"") to a [displacement prevention pilot program]( "link to Austin Monitor story: "Austin launches displacement prevention pilot program"") that hopes to keep residents in their communities.

But we believe that numbers have to be backed up by community buy-in. The foundation of all our reporting is community input, and that will continue to guide our work. To that end, we also wanted to experiment with creating a community group to offer consistent feedback on our stories, in addition to our broader outreach efforts. We’re calling this volunteer group the Sounding Board (you can read more about it here). Our hope is that having a consistent group of residents plugged into our work will help us build stronger community connections and create even more impactful reporting.

With this information on the locations, their needs, and our updated plans, the CAB deliberated on where Decibel should go next. Members asked questions about San Marcos being a college town and how that impacted age demographics, and what the 211 call data told us about needs in Bastrop. But when it came time to vote, it was a near-unanimous decision for Dove Springs. As one member put it, “this is our backyard. And we got to take care of our backyard.”

Decibel will wrap up our reporting project in Pflugerville in July. New stories on housing in Dove Springs are expected to go up in late August and early September. In the meantime we’ll be working on creating our community Sounding Board and looking for opportunities to meet residents where they are.

While we’re implementing a lot of changes, one important aspect is not changing: Decibel promises to produce community-led journalism that amplifies the diverse voices of the people who live there.

Do you live or work in Dove Springs? Are you interested in helping guide our reporting on this community? Click here to apply to our Sounding Board. Applications will be open through June.

Community journalism doesn’t happen without community support.

Got story ideas, advice on how we can improve our reporting or just want to know more about what we do? Reach out to us at

And if you value this type of reporting, then please consider making a donation to Austin PBS. Your gift makes the quality journalism done by the Decibel team possible. Thank you for your contribution.

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