SAN ANTONIO – “Paul Venema, KSAT 12 News.”
We call that a sig-out in the news business. That’s short for “signature out” and it’s what reporters say at the end of their story. On Friday, veteran reporter Paul Venema gave his final sig-out after a 47-year career with KSAT.
“I am humbled. The whole thing has been one heck of a ride,” Venema said on Friday’s GMSA at 9 a.m., which was largely dedicated to covering his epic career. Though after 47 years, it’s more than a career. It’s a legacy.
“In 47 years, (I’ve) covered a few stories,” Venema said.
“I remember watching Venema break into programming, reporting live from the scene of the Branch Davidian fire near Waco. Venema owned that story – he had a sense of urgency as he reported from the compound. It was clear that Paul would not be out-hustled on a story that defined much of the news coverage in early 1993,” said KSAT News Director Bernice Kearney.
Watch Video: KSAT co-workers past, present reflect on Paul’s legacy
Venema covered the 51-day standoff between members of the sect and federal agents and was reporting live when the compound went up in flames with men, women and children inside. Seventy-six people died that day. Venema said the experience brought a new perspective to his reporting.
“What we do is so important but we can’t lose sight that we’re dealing with people,” Venema said.
Venema said it has been fulfilling to follow cases from their start all the way to the courthouse, where Venema found his passion covering trials.
“I fell in love with the legal system and that’s what I enjoy most,” Venema said.
“Before I met him personally, I thought he was like a Hollywood star at that level. And so then to have met him and established a friendship with him, he is just a very humble person, just very down to earth, very understanding,” said 226th Criminal District Court Judge Velia Meza.
After getting his start in radio, Venema began his career at KSAT as a weekend anchor in 1969. He later anchored the 5, 6, and 10 o’clock newscasts, but his true passion was working as a reporter in the field.
And while much of his career was spent telling hard-hitting stories about crimes, he also was known for his interviews and close friendship with music icon Willie Nelson.
Nelson once told Venema during an interview that their friendship worked because, “I like you. You’re a nice guy. You do what you say you’re gonna do and you do your job well.”
Watch Video: Judges talk about Paul’s professionalism, friendship in the courtroom
That’s a sentiment that could be echoed by anyone who has worked with Venema. He will be missed in the newsroom, on KSAT newscasts and at the Bexar County Courthouse.
“It’s not going to be the same without him, but I certainly wish him happy retirement. And as the saying goes, when he rides off into the sunset, I hope that he enjoys his retirement,” said Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales.
So, how does Venema sum up his career?
“Long,” he joked.
“No, really it’s been so incredibly rewarding. I wouldn’t tell our general manager this, but I probably would have done it for nothing,” Venema said.
Still, he’s ready to decompress a little.
“This industry kinda chews you up sometimes,” he said. “I’m ready to start chasing grandchildren instead of deadlines.”
He’s excited to spend more time with his wife, Sonia, who he calls his rock, as well as his three daughters, a son and three grandkids.
His wife has booked a cruise next year, but other than that, Paul says, “I’ll wait on the Lord to see where I’m going.”
The judge and jury can agree that Venema deserves to sign off and sail into the sunset.
You can watch Paul Venema’s final appearance on KSAT News during Friday’s 6 p.m. newscast.