Matthew Schwartz of KVOA News 4 Tucson shares more than 40 behind-the-scenes stories from his 37-year career as a hard-hitting journalist in his newly published memoir, “Confessions of an Investigative Reporter” (Koehler Books). Hard hits come with the territory. He’s been swung at with a baseball bat, hit by a thrown bottle, arrested, and spit on. But, he says, “I like what I do.”
Schwartz joined KVOA in April 2013 as an investigative reporter with 30 years’ experience, including 20 at WWOR-TV News in New York City. He’s interviewed five presidents, spoken with then-businessman Donald Trump six times, covered four New York mayors, the 9/11 attacks, and the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. He also conducted an exclusive interview with notorious ’70s New York serial killer David Berkowitz, known as “Son of Sam.” His 200-plus professional awards include four New York Emmys.
In his book, he credits his mother, Shirley Schwartz, a militant Zionist, with imbuing him with a passion for justice from an early age. When an older child called him a “dirty Jew,” she confronted the perpetrator’s family. It didn’t happen again.
“My mother dragged me to civil rights rallies when I was young,” he continues. “She had me read books about civil rights and civil injustices.”
Now 66, Schwartz has investigated airlines, fraudulent businesses, public employees, and college and pro sports. He’s often the last resort for victims of defaulting contractors, scammers, medical malpractice, and other injustices. He gets personal satisfaction when his stories make a difference. “I can think of three instances when scam artists were sent to prison,” he says.
“Confessions” tells how, in 2000, President Clinton signed the “Safe Air Travel for Animals” act following Schwartz’s 1998 investigation about pets harmed or killed during airline transportation.
Many of the stories took place in Tucson. When Schwartz revealed in 2013 that dogs at Tucson Greyhound Park were drugged and mistreated, activists took up the cause, and in 2016 Governor Doug Ducey signed bills to end greyhound racing in Arizona. Schwartz also has shined his spotlight on the Pima County Board of Supervisors, University of Arizona sports figures, and many others, as he relates in page-turning detail.
Schwartz moved to Tucson following a professional hiatus due to the illness and death of his mother. After his long stint in New York, and as an investigative reporter on WFTS-TV in Tampa, Florida, he was attracted by an offer from KVOA. “I got spoiled by the warm weather in Tampa,” he says, “and I missed being on the air.”
Though not a practicing Jew, on arriving in Tucson he called the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona to request information about the area. “The lady I spoke with was really helpful, and she invited me to speak to some Jewish men’s clubs,” he says. “The people here are very friendly.”
There are many scams in Tucson aimed at senior citizens, Schwartz says. “I like to do those stories [on the air] so they don’t fall for them. It’s a great feeling when people approach me and say, ‘Thank you for everything you do for the community.’”
A book signing and discussion is scheduled at Mostly Books, 6208 E. Speedway Blvd., July 18, noon-1 p.m. Call 571-0110 for details. To suggest a story, email email@example.com.
Kaye Patchett is a freelance writer in Tucson.