Back in 2011, I interned at a newspaper in Tennessee and had to knock on a door and ask to talk to the family of a murder victim. I know of no reporter who enjoys that part of the job, but it is part of the job. We tell stories, and that means we have to talk to people.
I scanned the police report for the fourth or fifth time to check the address before taking a deep breath.
Aundre Bush. 19 years old. Shot in the head hours earlier. My hands were shaking.
I heard sobbing from inside. A big woman came to the door and said, Leave. I spoke from my stomach as loud as I could.
“My name is Andrew Pantazi. I’m a reporter with The Chattanooga Times Free Press. I want to find out the kind of man Aundre Bush was. I was wondering if his mom wanted to talk?”
A woman whimpered something about letting me in. That’s how I met Aundre’s mother and learned that Aundre’s son turned 1 three days earlier. This was a story of a son losing his dad.
I believe in stories that show people aren’t “victims” and “suspects.” They have backgrounds. They have dreams and fears.
Since then, I’ve written profiles of heroin dealers; I’ve investigated banks preying on homeowners; I’ve exposed slums.
I moved to my hometown to report for The Florida Times-Union, then I married my sweetheart and then I became a father. I care about my city, so I ask questions.
I write stories about complicated people and complicated issues because that’s my job. I ask questions, then I explain the answers in the newspaper. I don’t cop out with flat clichés.