by Amanda Smith
In a world full of divisive politics, environmental ruin and ever-widening economic disparity, it’s all too easy to become desperately discouraged at the state of things, wondering…where have all the good guys gone? But if you look hard enough, hidden beneath an endless sea of crooks and villans, a real live super hero emerges, instilling your faith in all things good and true. If there was ever a news anchor we could always count on to be “on our side,” it’s News Channel 8’s Steve Andrews. A veteran of the broadcast journalism world, Steve Andrews is unrivaled as Tampa Bay’s most recognized Investigative team reporter – with a whopping seven Emmys and a trail of justice-served
following him wherever he goes. We spoke to the investigative reporter about the highlights of such an exciting career and how best we can protect ourselves and our assets this holiday season.
Q: I know that a lot of our audience is familiar with you and your work, but how did you get involved with journalism to begin with or broadcast?
Steve: I started at a very young age actually. I read the papers when I was a kid and I would actually sit with a newspaper and a typewriter, physically rewriting the stories to make them a little more entertaining or more understandable – it was a way for me to envision myself as one of them, really. But once I saw 60 Minutes, I was hooked – that’s how I really began to get into the idea of getting into news. My first investigative piece was actually about a car dealership, Big John Naughton Ford. It was like the seventh
largest Ford dealership in the country and we found that they were doing just awful
things to their customers. Throwing keys on the roof so people couldn’t get away – they’d literally keep them there until they bought a car. They would tell them that they’re selling them a car and deceiving them, financing it at an enticing interest rate of 4 or 5 percent, only to found out it was actually 20 – 25 percent interest they were being charged. They were targeting elderly women, who had no idea what kind of car they were buying, so it was a lot of smoke and mirrors. It was corruption from the sales force right up to the owner. Our series of stories on the dealership actually launched an investigation by the state attorney’s office – and they arrested the top four executives for criminal racketeering, which was really kind of unheard of, and the place was shut down. At that point the new director said hey, would you like to do this full-time – and how could I say no?
Q: It sounds like you’re first big taste of success was all it took…
Steve: Every phone in the newsroom was ringing and it was actually a little frightening, seeing as they were a huge advertiser at the time. But the station stood by us and said we don’t care if they’re an advertiser or not. It was an eye-opening and thrilling story all at the same time.
Q: That really elevates journalism to a whole new level of protecting the people. There must be so much gratification in that.
Steve: Yeah there’s gratification and there’s frustration. I will tell you that I think for us, we’ve always gravitated to the stories where the greatest dis-empowerment occurs, The less voice they have to speak up for themselves, the more we chase the story. That’s really the voice of the voiceless right there. Our goal is always to hold the powerful accountable.
Q: How do you choose which stories that you’re going to pursue?
Steve: At this point I’m looking for stories we haven’t done before, in the 31 years I’ve been doing this, But I think there’s a couple of things; people who are adamant and keep pushing and clawing us and saying hey I need your help or this or that, even if it’s a story we’ve done before. If somebody is really adamant and they have stuff that they can give us like documents – any proof or evidence, that makes our job a little bit easier. If we’re
made aware of some person, organization, whatever that’s exploiting kids or the elderly in any way, shape or form that becomes kind of personal for us. I’m a parent, so I’m always touched by kids stories, and my mom is no longer here, but when she was around she would always tell me about these different things she ran across – like people calling to
scam her. Really, we just look for folks who are abused, not just physically, but I mean abused by sales people, abused by government, abused by corporations, that’s what we look for.
Q: Is there a standout moment of your career that you’re really proud of?
Steve: We did a story that really wasn’t a consumer-related story so much as it was a Law & Order type story where we found that the state attorney was placing bets on dogs from his office, which I don’t know that that’s illegal, but I certainly know it’s not appropriate to be using county property to be placing bets on the dogs. And when we requested the records him and his staff started destroying them. They were destroying public records, which is against the law and of course he’s the highest prosecutor in the county and he’s breaking the law himself. It seems the cover up is always worse than the crime. So we did a series of stories about this, and soon after, the Governor announced that he was launching an investigation. Well, the state attorney didn’t show up for work, because there was media camped out all around the courthouse waiting for him to show up. Gordon and I went to his apartment and we waited and we saw his people coming and going. We figured he was maybe having a damage control meeting offsite, but they all looked very, very distressed. They didn’t know what was going on. So we were kind of driving around the complex and we saw this guy sitting against a pillar underneath the crosstown, so we went over and checked it out and it was the state attorney. He had killed himself and we found his body. We became the news that day unfortunately, but it definitely stands out as one of the most stunning moments of my career. It was tragic really, he was a compulsive gambler, bouncing checks, but prosecuting people for that. So I think his world was crashing down right in front of him. I don’t know that he would have done any jail time, but he would have been so disgraced that I suppose he chose suicide unfortunately and tragically. It was really awful, but not everyday can be rescuing animals and looking like a superhero. Either way, I’m grateful everyday I get the chance to make a difference.
Stay tuned next month for part two with Andrews!
STAY SAFE THIS SEASON
Steve Andrews’ top tips for avoiding holiday tricks & scams
IMPULSE BUYING: Watch out for impulse
buying, even when your heart is in the right
place. Everything is made to look extra
good during the holiday season, so make
sure you take time to decide.
RETURN POLICY: Always check the return
policy – the finest details of it before you
buy any gifts for friends and family.
TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE: As the old saying
goes, if it’s too good to be true it probably is.