Matthew Schwartz always had writing a book on his bucket list, but with his full-time job as an investigative reporter with KVOA News 4 Tucson, he figured it would have to wait until he was retired.
Then in 2014, he received some valuable advice. He spoke to a group from Arizona Mystery Writers when the head of the group said she had been watching him on television and suggested that he must have some amazing behind-the-scenes stories from his decades of reporting.
“I said, ‘Yes, I have a lot of them, and I’ve been taking notes for a book for 20 years,’” says Matthew. “She gave me the best advice. She said write a page a day and a light went on in my head and I thought I can do that.” Starting in April 2019, every morning before he went to work, he would try to write a page a day.
He originally thought he would self-publish, just as a keepsake for himself, his family and friends. When he shared the manuscript with some colleagues and journalist friends, they suggested that he not self-publish so that it would be more readily available in bookstores.
“I got an email raving about the book from Koehler Publishing,” says Matthew. “They loved the book and offered me a contract and an advance.” On May 26, 2020, Confessions of an Investigative Reporter was released.
Matthew started on his career path at 15 when he would accompany his neighbor in River Edge, NJ, Jim Donnelly, to his job as a morning co-anchor on WCBS 880 News Radio in New York.
He would go to work with Jim during vacation breaks in high school and college, and after he graduated from journalism school at Ohio University, they hired him.
“I was a desk assistant, and I was thrilled to be working at this place,” remembers Matthew. “My first paycheck with the CBS logo was surreal to me – the same paycheck that Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite received.”
Matthew’s dream was to be on television in New York City by his 30th birthday. After 11 months at WCBS, he worked on-air in Utica, NY, for two years, then two years at two different stations in Richmond VA and Cleveland, OH.
Then in 1983, his mother called and told him that his father was ill and given six months to live.
“I called my agent to put the pedal to the metal,” says Matthew. “I got a job in NYC, and my first day on channel 9 in NYC was exactly on my 30th birthday.” He was there for 20 years.
He recalls that his “hardest get,” the most significant interview of his career, also led to his downfall. It was his interview with serial killer David Berkowitz, also known as the Son of Sam.
“It was one of my toughest and greatest interviews, but the thing that was the big bummer was when my boss saw the footage of the interview my pen was on the table,” says Matthew. “My boss says, ‘Weren’t you nervous about him picking up the pen and stabbing you with it?’ And I said, ‘You’re not serious right?’
“He was born again, wanted to be called the ‘Son of Hope,’ and there were two guards in the room,” explains Matthew. “He was a model inmate and was very calm. The thought never entered my mind.”
Since the station was bought out in 2001, the new management’s leaning was towards sensationalistic or tabloid journalism. So when the script came back, the news director had inserted a comment that the producer – who was not even present at the interview – was worried that Berkowitz might pick up the pen.
“It was an outright lie. It bothered me to see that,” says Matthew. “That led to my downfall because I didn’t acquiesce to them, but I couldn’t afford to quit. I was married with three kids.”
A few months later, they didn’t renew Matthew’s contract. That was the end of a 20-year run.
After New York, he worked in Tampa, and then the person who hired him got let go, and the new general manager brought in his investigative reporter. “I went from never getting laid off in my career to twice not having my contract renewed,” he says.
In early 2013, there was a job opening in Tucson, and his agent sent his tape. Matthew had never been to the city before his interview. He started with KVOA that April.
“The last 13 chapters of the book are all Tucson stories,” says Matthew. The book is divided into three main sections: New York Confessions, Tampa Confessions and Tucson Confessions, and ends with personal stories.
The day after Confessions of an Investigative Reporter was released, it reached number one on Amazon’s Biographies of Journalists Kindle Edition.
Matthew retired in June, and although it’s too soon to “miss the job,” he does miss reporting.
“When I see something that I think is an injustice, I miss not being able to report about it,” he says.
Throughout his career, he shared numerous stories about people who got ripped off, and as a result, viewers would donate their time and money to help fix the problem. And the series he did on the mistreatment of pets in airplane cargo holds led to a new law signed by President Clinton making air travel safer for pets.
“I was planning to retire the end of next year, and during the pandemic, I did a lot of soul searching,” says Matthew. “I’m 66, and my father died at 74. There are other things I want to do.”
Those “other things” include playing the piano and acting in community theater. He has started online piano lessons.
He can successfully scratch the first thing off his bucket list – writing a book. Says Matthew, “It’s a dream come true.”
To find out more about Matthew and Confessions of an Investigative Reporter, visit matthewschwartzbook.com.