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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.

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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.