WSAV investigative reporter says to dump the blinders; look deeper, follow-up and drive the story forward

Andrew Davis

Journalist Andrew Davis has covered monster hurricanes for television stations in the Lowcountry and Coastal Empire area of Georgia and South Carolina. Facebook photo

By Isaiah Singleton, SPJ Region 3 Summer Intern, Savannah State University senior

Savannah, GEORGIA — WSAV -TV 3 Anchor and Investigative Reporter Andrew Davis, and SPJ Georgia member, serves his community as a watchdog from the NBC-affiliated station’s newsroom but also helps stop crime while working directly with area law enforcement behind the scenes. 

Each day Davis covers top crime stories as a journalist and is a producer of an ongoing series on crime for the station, but he can easily switch leadership hats to contribute to Georgia’s Coastal Empire area as the chair of the City of Savannah-Chatham County’s Crime-Stoppers board of directors, a non profit organization that rewards citizens for providing tips on crimes.

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Becoming an investigative journalist, according to Davis, became an automatic transition overtime. “The more stories that I did, the more that the investigative tag came with me. I have to hold everyone accountable no matter what my title is,” he said.

“More and more, I think that everyone is an investigative journalist in some form. You can’t just go through life with blinders on and say, ‘I’m just going to do this story, not look any deeper, and not follow-up and do what is necessary to drive this story forward,” Davis said.

Investigative journalists are important especially in today’s beliefs, he said.

“Considering the climate, we’re in today, politically and personally, with police issues and various other situations that we are in every single day. Unfortunately investigative journalists are more important than ever.” – Andrew Davis

To find the truth, investigative journalists must dig deeper and to get the details behind the scenes to better understand the situation more effectively and efficiently, he said.

Davis said he is finding that people do not want to accept anything [crime] anymore and want to challenge many things, good or bad. As investigative journalists and Crime-Stopper advocate, he said both organizations are there to help, do the leg work, make decisions, and try to get the information that the people are looking for.

As viewers begin to tune into what is going on, Davis said that people will go “I understand now, I would like to get more information about this” or “now I better understand why I should or should not care about this situation.”

He said there are also risks investigative journalists take when they do their jobs.

“You certainly can burn a lot of contacts that you have built over time including friendships, along with personal safety depending on what situation you are investigating and how deep you go into it.” – Andrew Davis

“Once, I was confronted by a political candidate, who happened to have a criminal record that he didn’t disclose.” According to Davis, there was mutual tension surrounding the situation. “He could’ve tried to strike me [as a journalist]. I think more than anything is that you are trying to do the best you can under the circumstances. There are risks every day,” he said. 

Andrew Davis mug

Andrew Davis

Meanwhile, in correlation media’s role in society, Davis said he thinks the current atmosphere of mistrust in media is polarized. “I think we are looking at a situation where the country is incredibly divided, so a lot of people on one side of the isle don’t believe anything the news does, good or bad, and the other side, occasionally believes too much,” he said.

In addition, he said people are not open to talk to him as a reporter. “I think it is very difficult to be a journalist right now. I get a lot of people who don’t necessarily want to talk to me right away because I’m a journalist and I have to gain their trust over time to try and make them understand that we are trying to make a difference and understand the situation better.”

He said that it is unfortunate because journalists are in a crucial part of the community. “I wish the climate was better. Locally, I think there is a lesser problem than nationally.” 

As for the future of journalism, Davis said, “I think investigative journalism is going to be something that will be more important, however, as we get more immediacy in society with Facebook and other tools,” these elements will continue to be important part of journalism.

 

The greatest asset a journalist possess is the ability to connect to people, said Davis. “To understand that you could be talking to someone who’s lost their home in a hurricane one day, then talking to the mayor or someone who just got shot on the street the next day. You have to be versatile and be able to talk to different people at different levels,” he said.

While living in Mobile, Alabama, Davis said he loved starting from the bottom and working his way to the top by first attending Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama and graduating with a bachelor’s degree in communications under the “Radio/TV/Film” concentration in 1994.

After graduation, Davis said he spent almost a dozen of years working his way up the latter at WALA Fox Ten Mobile, from editor to producer to reporter before approaching the opportunity to anchor for both news and sports. 

Fox 10 AlabamaIn 1994, Davis started as an editor at WALA-TV in Mobile, Alabama. The following year, he was promoted to producer until 2001. At the same time, he became reporter in 1999 until 2006 and earned the titles of Replacement Sports and News Anchor during 2001-2006.

During the time he was in Mobile, he covered numerous stories and witnessed monster hurricanes, including Hurricane Katrina in Alabama, Mississippi, Hurricane Irma and Matthew that affected most of the Lowcountry (a geographic and cultural region along South Carolina’s coast including the Sea Islands, Hilton Head, SC, Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester counties) and Coastal Empire (which is Savannah, Georgia). 

“I have been through probably a dozen tropical storms and hurricanes during my career. The worst one that I will never forget is Katrina,” he said. “Walking around Gulfport, Mississippi, and seeing the devastation that was there in real life told exactly what they had been through.”

Davis said Hurricane Matthew specifically taught him about the use of social media and how it is valuable during a storm.

“I drove around with Facebook Live going basically to neighborhood to neighborhood to show what was going on from a news organization perspective,” Davis said. “It was incredibly valuable to the people that lived here who had to evacuate because they got to see other neighborhoods and appreciate why they were still evacuating.”

After departing Alabama, he moved to Savannah in 2005, where he became an Anchor/Reporter for WTOC-TV during 2006 to 2008. While at WTOC-TV, he anchored the Saturday Morning Newscast, Sunday extended Sportscast, Live Reporter/Co-Anchor for Live Football Tailgating Specials and Verizon Heritage/Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf Live Specials.

“I think it is so important because it gives you a real view of everything that everyone does. Becoming an editor, I saw how producers worked,” said Davis. “I saw good and bad things, and moving up to producer, I was able to understand and write quicker because I had to produce work in a faster format.”

WSAVBy 2009, Davis moved to another television news team, WSAV-TV, and spent the next three years as the Anchor/Reporter First News at 5 p.m. and News 3 at 5:30 p.m. Within those years, around 2012, he became an investigative reporter for WSAV-TV, where he works today. 

During his time as a broadcast journalist, Davis has been part of several Emmy nominated newscasts, and won several Associated Press awards and Murrow Awards for various stories, including Best Web Based Story for his profile of animals displaced and looking for new homes after the wildfires in Ware County.

In 2013 Davis earned a Georgia Associated Press Broadcasters Association award for General Reporting for his work on a local trail of sex predators. In 2014, Davis also earned a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award from Radio Television Digital News Association for his breaking news coverage of the surprise retirement of Savannah Police Chief Willie Lovett.

To unwind after a long day at work, Davis said he loves watching and playing sports.

Pittsburgh Steelers logo“I am a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan,” he said. Davis was born in Bethesda, Maryland.

At the same time, Davis said that he enjoys watching and playing sports, running, going to the movies, and theater to turn his brain off a little bit.

Davis said he grew up initially wanting to start in sports broadcasting, which over time resulted in where he is today in the news business.

As for advice for new and current journalists, he said in order for them to progress in their careers, they need to become effective journalists and recognize how their work affects the community they serve.

“Connect with your community. Remember that you can be anxious just to leave and move on to the next job, no one is going to stop you from doing that, but remember how much of an effect that you can have over a short period of time in one community.” – Andrew Davis

“For any journalist or reporter, I think you have to not focus on your next job but focus on the community that you are involved in and build yourself within this community,” he said. Too many times, we’re worried about where we are going to next instead of understanding how what an effect we can have on the community.”

This could ultimately affect the trust of the media in the community, said Davis. “You have to get passed the great stories to ‘how does it affect my community’ and that makes a great story,” he said. I have seen too many young journalists who want immediate trust and great stories, said Davis.

 

Isaiah mug

Isaiah Singleton

Isaiah Singleton is SPJ Region 3’s 2018 summer intern. He is a senior at Savannah State University majoring in Mass Communication with a concentration in online/print journalism. Singleton is a contributing writer for the University’s student-ran newspaper, The Tiger’s Roar. Raised in Stockbridge, Georgia, writing has always been his passion. During childhood, he wrote numerous fictional stories about his life and what he wanted it to be. 

 

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