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By one definition, a watchdog is someone who looks carefully for illegal or unethical conduct. This definition most aptly describes the purpose of my new print column and blog.

“Watchdog,” which publishes every other Wednesday in print, will serve to investigate stories that are important to you. No topic is off-limits.

I’m also launching this new blog with the same name. My “Watchdog” blog will solicit input and ideas from you, update you about the progress of certain projects, as well as offer tips that help you better become your own Watchdog.

Of course, investigative stories take work. Some investigations will require days. Others will require weeks. The most meaty of stories will likely take months or years to compile.

That’s why I will commonly team with other reporters to bring you this important information. Advocate education reporter Rubi Reyes and I have already begun work on a local story all parents should know.

When you see the “Watchdog” logo – whether that be in here or in the newspaper  -- you’ll know what to expect.

To fill the void between long-term projects, I will also report on less time-intensive subjects, and give you the tools to make well-informed decisions.

I hope “Watchdog” will uncover stories that will help us all live a better life – and expose the crooked side of our community.

Share your Watchdog stories

If you have a story you want the Advocate to investigate, e-mail watchdog@vicad.com, post in here or call me, Gabe Semenza, at 361-580-6519.

Tip of the Day

Did you know you can view thousands of records about those who contribute money to presidential candidates? By visiting www.OpenSecrets.org/pres08, you can view all the money donated to President-elect Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain.

Is Mexican drug war violence headed Victoria’s way?

The Advocate spent three days in Nuevo Laredo to learn the answer. On Sunday, the eighth installment of the "Fatal Funnel" publishes. This installment documents the violence in Nuevo Laredo at the height of the drug war in 2006, as well as the state of the Laredo corridor today.

During our investigation, we met Rusty Fleming, a Dallas-area filmmaker who spent three years on the border and in Mexico to document the drug war violence. His film, "Drug Wars: Silver or Lead," premieres in Victoria on Tuesday at the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts.

For more about the movie premiere, click here. For more about the film, click here.

We hope you'll attend this FREE film premiere. The movie begins at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m.

I joined a trailer of the film to this blog. View with caution. Some images and video are graphic.

Parting thought

Now that I've introduced my new blog and column to you, I say let's get to work. Do you have any Watchdog story ideas? Any tips we should investigate? Please reach me in here, or if the information is sensitive, call or e-mail me.

I look forward to working with you. Best wishes and Happy Holidays,

Gabe Semenza/Advocate public service editor