“The Next Million”

San Antonio Express-News  
July 22, 2016 

As the nation’s seventh largest city, San Antonio stands at the center of a region undergoing astounding growth, with another million people expected to arrive over the next 25 years.

In some areas, the boom has ushered in a spate of new affluent subdivisions, shopping centers and employment hubs, as well as longer drive times on congested roads and bond votes for dozens of new schools.

Other swaths haven’t fared as well.

Indeed, this unprecedented growth has illuminated the tale of two distinct cities: a northern half that has become home to the city’s top tier jobs and high-end commercial districts, and a southern half that has stagnated. That division – from housing opportunities to income disparity and the policies that could reinforce or alter it – was the focus of “The Next Million,” a yearlong project that aimed to document the transformation of a nearly 300-year-old city into a burgeoning metropolis, to help readers understand the risks and consequences of unfettered and unbalanced development. The in-depth look culminated in a collection of 11 stories, hundreds of photographs, numerous videos, interactive graphics and editorials.

“The Next Million” was published as a robust multimedia package on our subscriber website, ExpressNews.com. The series outlined what’s at stake for the city and the region, mostly through stories of people whose lives and livelihoods are undergoing change, like Josie Mendoza, whose ancestry stretches back many generations and is firmly rooted on the South Side, where new apartment buildings and strip malls are sprouting all around her. “We’re used to being left alone,” she said. And “for years we were.”

At the time of publication, city leaders were poised to debate a proposed citywide comprehensive plan, the first in decades, to address various aspects of urban life, including land use, transportation and sustainability. “The Next Million” was a catalyst for a public conversation about growth that continues today and includes such contentious issues as annexation and affordable housing. The theme continued through the year, with additional stories about the rising risk of flooding and the destruction of habitat posed by rapid urbanization.

Lead reporter Vianna Davila was invited to discuss her reporting on the local NPR and PBS affiliates, college classes and before church groups. The region’s Time Warner Cable News affiliate (now known as Spectrum) produced a multi-part TV series about growth in San Antonio based specifically on the Express-News project.

Most importantly, readers praised “The Next Million,” calling it “incredible, vital local journalism,” and an “amazing piece of qualitative and quantitative journalism, detailing nothing less than the future of San Antonio.”

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Submitted by Jamie Stockwell.

Headliners Foundation