Investigative reporter Matthew Schwartz’s dream was to be on TV in New York by the time he was 30. The first time he reported on air in 1984 was on his 30th birthday on WWOR-TV News in New York City, says Schwartz. He stayed for 20 years, until Fox News bought the station and didn’t renew his contract.
At WWOR, recalls Schwartz, “my most memorable story was easily my prison interview with ‘Son of Sam’ killer David Berkowitz. Plus it was the only TV interview he gave in at least 10 years.” Schwartz also covered the four trials of reputed mobster John Gotti, the 9/11 attacks at Ground Zero, the crash two months later of American Airlines flight 587 in Queens, and the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. Schwartz has interviewed five U.S. presidents and is a four-time Emmy Award-winning journalist.
In April, with 30 years of broadcast journalism behind him, Schwartz, 59, joined News 4 Tucson (KVOA).
Growing up in River Edge, N.J., he thought about being a journalist, a lawyer or a gym teacher. In 11th grade he started observing his journalist neighbor Jim Donnelly, which paid off after Schwartz graduated from Ohio University in 1976. Two weeks after college, he got his first job at WCBS Radio in New York City, where Donnelly was the morning drive co-anchor.
Schwartz worked at other TV reporting jobs in Utica, N.Y., Richmond, Va., and Cleveland, Ohio, before his 20-year stint in New York, where he started as a general assignment reporter and was promoted to investigative reporter in 1993. He was the investigative reporter on WFTS-TV (an ABC affiliate) in Tampa, Fla., from 2005 through 2008. “I was laid off on Dec. 31,” he says, “which was a big sorrow but only fair” when a newly hired news director wanted to choose his own team.
At the time, Schwartz didn’t seek another job so he could take time off to be with his mother, who had cancer. “I was out of work in 2009. I based my decision on family not career,” he told the AJP. “My mother, Shirley Schwartz, was a militant Zionist. She volunteered in the Israel Defense Forces as a nurse during one of the Middle East conflicts. She volunteered to interview Holocaust survivors for Steven Spielberg’s Shoah project. She was buried in her Israeli army uniform.”
In 2010, not long after his mother died, says Schwartz, “My son Michael was drafted into major league baseball for the Chicago White Sox. He was an all-American baseball player at the University of Tampa. My other son Jason was also a college baseball player.”
About 18 months ago, while still living in Tampa and working in public relations, he decided, “I missed the business. My mother’s gone. I can’t follow my son’s baseball games forever. Let’s give TV another shot. I hired a new agent. I didn’t want to be in a cold climate.”
Over that time there were “never more than nine positions open in investigative reporting in the United States,” says Schwartz. But one of those jobs was in Tucson. “I flew in on Feb. 28 and started working on April 10. It’s a really friendly town. It’s a strange move from the number one market in the country to the 14th [in Tampa], to the 70th market” in Tucson. “But I like what I do,” he says. One coincidence is that Sean Mooney, a native Tucsonan, worked with Schwartz in New York for three years during the 1990s, and is now an anchor at News 4 Tucson.
Right now, Schwartz says, “I’m working long days. I have a lot to offer. I really think I can help people.” And for him, “it’s all about networking.” His recent story about thumbtacks strewn on bicycle paths from Tanque Verde to the base of Mt. Lemmon came “through my brother’s friend’s sister who moved to Tucson 35 years ago,” he says. “I got a wonderful e-mail from her welcoming me to Tucson.” She’s an avid cyclist, and a few weeks later he received an e-mail from her about the thumbtack situation.
“It’s either some kids and/or motorists who don’t like bicyclists,” says Schwartz, adding that he’s driven around at night with a News 4 photographer in an attempt to catch the culprits.
“The greyhound story is my favorite Tucson story so far,” he says about his Tucson Greyhound Park piece that ran on News 4 on April 26, which revealed that the animals were given steroids before races. “That’s no way to treat dogs,” says Schwartz, adding, “Everyone tells me there’s not enough investigative reporting here. I want to expose fraud, corruption, rip-offs and scams.
“I love it here,” he says. “The station is letting me do my thing. Any investigative stories are only as good as my sources. I’m only as good as my tips.”
If AJP readers have any potential investigative stories, says Schwartz, they can contact him at [email protected]. And they can choose to remain anonymous.