In this terrifying age of misinformation, “alt-facts”, and lies, a good reporter is highly valued. One that is willing to hit the pavement, talking to anyone about anything, and dig, dig, dig for the truth—that reporter is the best! Two-time Pulitzer-prize winning investigative journalist and public health hero, Andrew Schneider, was all that and more.
Andy died at age 74 of heart failure—amazing, given how he had the biggest, strongest and most loving heart any person could have. His heart was this big:
Andy broke a story that became a national scandal of asbestos contamination and cover-up in Libby, Montana. Andy’s writing documented the suppression of government scientists, public health experts, and injured families. When I asked Andy what kept him going—for years—on that story, he said to me that he couldn’t give up on those people—ever. Andy was driven to make sure that the truth came out and that dedicated public servants were given a voice so that justice was done for the people that had suffered from that deadly mineral. His heart was as big as Montana.
One afternoon I was enjoying one of Andy’s home-cooked meals, and he was asking me what I was working on—i.e. pitch him a story. At this time, around 2006 or so, I had started looking into the health risks of nanomaterials. Carbon nanotubes, I was telling him, can be a lot like asbestos fibers, and can do the same kind of lung damage in rodent studies. Andy hadn’t heard much about it but his wife, Kathy Best, a journalist and accomplished newspaper editor with a Pulitzer Prize of her own, saw a story and gave Andy a nudge. That kicked off a series of articles on the possible health hazards of nanotechnologies. No story too big or too small for Andy to care about—that’s the kind of heart he had.
My favorite heart-story about Andy is not one that he published or won a prize for. It’s the one that I called Andy about just a few months ago, asking him to re-tell it to me so I’d have the facts right. It’s the one about his dog. Andy and Kathy have a few dogs, but as a very young pup one had been stolen from them. They put up signs, talked with everyone, checked all the shelters, worked with the police, etc. No luck. Andy never gave up on that puppy. Every day after work he would drive up and down the streets and alleys looking for that dog, talking with everyone he saw, over and over, night after night, for weeks and months. He finally recovered that pup from the back yard of a drug addict that had stolen it for a girlfriend—it was neglected and in trauma. Andy and Kathy still have that dog—happy and healthy. Thankfully, Andy’s heart wasn’t the giving-up kind.
That’s how big and strong and full of love Andy’s heart was. He was mighty, and his loss is our call to continue his work, because now more than ever we must have heart!
Note for those interested, Andy covered pesticides, toxic chemicals, food additives and food safety, regulatory failures, poisoned workers and communities, suppressed scientists and government experts, new technologies—you name it. And, he had some great blogs to profile his investigations: TheFoodWatchdog.com and Coldtruth.com and Secret Ingredients.