As we take time to celebrate Black History Month in February, we knew who we wanted to interview for this month’s Behind the Byline — WTAE’s Andrew Stockey.
Andrew Stockey is a widely known and respected journalist on Pittsburgh’s Action News 4. When describing his typical day to me, he jokes, “it doesn’t feel like a 12-hour day,” but maybe that’s because he’s so passionate about his work.
Like many of our other Behind the Byline interview subjects, we talked about his most memorable story (hint: it’s sports-related), and how Andrew decided to become a reporter, which came as a shock when he said, “I’d never thought I’d do this as a career.”
A big part of our discussion focused on Black Americans, including recent Pittsburghers he interviewed for WTAE Listens, and Black role models he admired growing up. He also shared what Black History Month means to him and what people can do this month to honor their legacy.
Keep reading to learn more about one of Pittsburgh’s favorite TV personalities.
Where are you from?
I was born in Chicago and I grew up in Simsbury, Conn.
What made you decide to become a reporter?
It actually wasn’t my first career choice. I went to school at Ohio University’s Honors Tutorial College to study business, specifically telecommunications management. It had never even crossed my mind to become a reporter until after college. While working behind the scenes in the sales and marketing department for ESPN and Fox, that’s when I had an epiphany that I could make a bigger impact working in front of the camera, not behind it.
How did you make that career transition?
While in college, I spent my free time learning all about TV and broadcast. I joined our campus TV station and volunteered with WOUB Public Media. After realizing my new dream, I started looking for opportunities to work on the journalism side. I was offered a position as an associate producer, but that still wasn’t what I wanted, so I kept searching for reporter opportunities. That’s when I got a call from my hometown network. Because of my interest in sports and connection to Connecticut, I was offered a weekend sportscaster position where I was on air two times a week. I absolutely loved it and made it my goal to get more air time. With practice, I became more comfortable on camera and was soon offered a sports anchor position in Mobile, Ala., which increased my on-air time to three times a day, five days a week.
How did you make your way to Pittsburgh?
Pittsburghers may remember Bill Hillgrove was WTAE’s sports director for nearly 20 years, but when he was asked by the Pittsburgh Steelers to replace retiring Jack Fleming as their broadcaster, that made room for me to become their newest sports anchor.
You’ve been all around the country. What made you decide to stay in Pittsburgh?
Before coming to Pittsburgh, the only thing I knew was that it had a really good football team and it was a steel town and always cloudy. But after moving here, the city has really grown on me. Like many others, I thought Pittsburgh would be a stop in my career, but I’ve always had the opportunity to grow and be challenged in new ways. I grew up in a small town and Pittsburgh feels like a small town. Everyone knows someone and we’re always helping each other out, whether we know them or not. It always felt like home to me.
As WTAE’s News Anchor and Sports Director, what’s a typical day like for you?
I get up and the first thing I look at is social media and other news outlets to see what’s going on for potential story ideas.
I head into the office around 1:30 p.m. and I work with my sports staff of reporters and producers to determine what’s the most important thing we want to cover today. I also work with producers to see what other stories we’re covering for the day and how I can help. I’m constantly writing, viewing stories and planning feature stories. At 5 p.m., I anchor the evening news and at 6, I put on my sports hat. When we’re off-air, I plan stories for the 11 p.m. show. After anchoring the 11 p.m. news, I’m usually home before midnight.
What is one of your most memorable stories?
One of my most memorable moments is the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates wild card game. I’ve been to Super Bowls, All-Star Games and all sorts of national championships, but I’ve never felt a greater atmosphere for a sporting event than I did that night at PNC Park. It was indescribable. So many people say Pittsburgh is “not a baseball town,” but that game proved that we’re just a dormant baseball town, and it was like 20 years of frustration came off that night. I wish everyone in Pittsburgh could’ve been there. I’ll never forget it.
WTAE has a segment called “WTAE Listens” focused on the Black community. Tell us more about that series.
WTAE Listens was an initiative following the Black Lives Matter protests as a way to hear the voices of Black Pittsburghers and share their stories. When the protests took place, there was a racial awakening across Pittsburgh, and people were having real conversations. We wanted to take it one step further by inviting all sorts of Black residents from different backgrounds on the show to talk about their hopes, dreams, frustrations and the real problems they face. When one part of the community is struggling, we all pay the price. I appreciate that our station wants our viewers to understand the bigger picture. It’s not about drawing an audience — the show is about opening people’s eyes to the Black experience and encouraging productive conversations and meaningful change.
This year marks your 26th year at WTAE, and I’m sure you’ve inspired a lot of young people in the community. Who were some of your role models when you were younger?
As a kid and a big sports fan, I always admired Walter Payton as one of my heroes. He was a great player and an even better role model. As an athlete, I tried to model my behavior the same way he handled himself on and off the field. I also really admired Bryant Gumbel as a journalist. But, most of all, my father was, and always will be, my hero. My father grew up in a time when Black Americans didn’t have opportunities. Yet, he worked very hard and was one of the first Black employees at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). He was well-spoken, very knowledgeable and was always reading about things he didn’t know about. I admire his desire to learn more so I try to be more like him.
February is Black History Month. What does this month mean to you?
It’s a month about learning. We should all take time to learn more Black history because it’s a part of American history. It’s not an easy story to tell, but we all need to know it. I encourage everyone to learn about one Black American. Ask your library for a book or ask someone you know who is Black and see what you can learn about their experiences. If you don’t know someone, reach out to local Black organizations and learn about how they are celebrating this month. People will be amazed by what they learn.
COVID has changed our world in almost every aspect. Do you think it will change the future of sports?
No question — it has already changed. We’ve all become used to this virtual world, and sports is no different. We’ve learned that we can isolate athletes and still have them perform and we’ve learned how to reach fans virtually. And now, we don’t feel so removed from the game because we’re not there – we’ve learned there are still ways to be a part of it. In other words, I think there are positive aspects that have helped enhance the virtual experience of sports and I think pieces of that will continue post-COVID.
What do you like to do for fun?
I just love being outside, and thankfully, COVID doesn’t prevent you from doing that. In the winter, I go ice skating at PPG Rink a lot and this past summer, I picked up golf as a COVID-friendly activity. I love walking the streets of Pittsburgh, and you can find me bicycling on different trails in the region once it gets warmer.
You’re involved with a lot of organizations in the community. Tell us about some of the causes you support.
One of the reasons I wanted to change my career to become a reporter is so I could make an impact. Just a few years after moving to Pittsburgh, the local Susan G. Komen chapter reached out to me. Their goal was to get more men involved. At the time, I didn’t know anyone with breast cancer, but as I became more involved and met survivors, it became really important to me. That’s why I’m such a big supporter of Race For The Cure.
– Robin Rectenwald, WordWrite