Looking forward to the future of journalism

The power of in-depth journalism: KSAT story about the homeless wowed viewers

KSAT feature on the homeless: The Other San Antonio

With all the mind-numbing stories about shootings and car accidents that usually glut local TV news broadcasts, it was refreshing to watch this gripping, commercial-free, documentary-style story by KSAT about the homeless.

Broadcast in December 2005, the story was an effort by anchor Steve Spriester to chronicle the face of homelessness in San Antonio. Express-News columnist Veronica Flores-Paniagua recently found out the KSAT story had sparked the idea for Haven for Hope, San Antonio’s new and controversial campus for the homeless:

Homelessness isn’t a sexy topic. But Spriester’s bosses recognized the public service potential and decided to air a half-hour show, sans commercials, during primetime — a Tuesday night in December 2005.

Even with that kind of professional support, it would still be a roll of the dice that the documentary, “The Other Side of San Antonio,” would engage the viewing public. Would people watch? Would it make a difference?

With Haven for Hope’s dedication ceremony Wednesday, the answers are a resounding yes.

The right people — namely, the right man, local business titan Bill Greehey — saw it. And the documentary gave Greehey’s philanthropy an intense, inspired direction. As the fundraising point man for the $100 million public-private Haven venture, Greehey regularly credits the show as the launching pad for his participation.

I’d loyally watch TV news if there were more stories like this and fewer stories about car wrecks. At a time when news organizations are facing cutbacks and looking for ways to win back the trust of their audience, here’s a shining example of the kind of story that ought to be the norm — not the exception.