The acclaimed investigative reporter and public-health journalist won two Pulitzer Prizes, and later worked for several years at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, where he broke the story of asbestos contamination in a small Montana town.
Andrew Schneider, an acclaimed investigative reporter and public-health journalist, died Friday. He was 74.
Mr. Schneider, who lived in Missoula, Montana, died of heart failure in Salt Lake City, where he was being treated for pulmonary disease.
For several years, he worked at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and was remembered by colleagues Saturday as a relentless, inspiring reporter who built indelible relationships with people from all walks of life.
Mr. Schneider won two Pulitzer Prizes, journalism’s highest honor, while at The Pittsburgh Press — one for specialized reporting in 1986 and another for Public Service in 1987.
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The public service Pulitzer was for “Danger in the Cockpit,” co-written with Matthew Brelis and photographed by Vincent Musi, a story revealing dangerous gaps in airline safety, including that pilots with alcohol and drug issues were not prevented from flying. The 1986 winner, written with Mary Pat Flaherty, detailed violations and failures in the organ-transplantation system in the U.S.
Mr. Schneider’s wife, Kathy Best, is editor of the Missoulian in Missoula and a former editor of The Seattle Times. The couple moved to Missoula last year from Seattle.
Flaherty, now with The Washington Post, said Saturday, “The man never had anything but a big, big plan when it came to a story he was chasing and if you were part of the hunt he raised your game, too.”
Later, at the Post-Intelligencer, Mr. Schneider broke the story of asbestos contamination in Libby, Montana, reporting that made global headlines and resulted in an EPA Superfund cleanup that continues today, nearly two decades later. More than 400 people have died and 1,000 more are sick in the town due to asbestos-related disease.
He co-authored “An Air That Kills: How the Asbestos Poisoning of Libby, Montana Uncovered a National Scandal,” published by Putnam in 2004. An updated version, “An Air that Still Kills,” was honored last year as iBook of the Year by iBA.
Scientists and public-health advocates paid tribute Saturday.
“In the 45 years I’ve worked on asbestos and other public-health issues, I’ve worked with a lot of journalists,” said public-health scientist Barry Castleman. “Andy Schneider was by far the best.”
Keven McDermott, retired manager of field investigations for EPA Region 10, worked with him on several stories. She called him, “our hero, our friend, our inspiration. He encouraged us to be brave and do good work. He told the stories that needed to be told and saved lives in the process. He will be forever missed.”
Mr. Schneider’s skill at befriending news sources led him to access to information journalists seldom get today. Staff at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh got so used to seeing him that they gave him a lab coat and a “Dr. Schneider” name tag.
Kimberly Hartnett worked with him in Concord, New Hampshire, covering anti-nuclear protests at Seabrook, New Hampshire, in the 1970s. “With stories like that it’s easy to cover from the sidelines, talk to two protesters and one police official and file. Andy didn’t believe (in) that,” she said. “For him there was never an end to the reporting.”
He was generous to a fault, Hartnett recalled. “You had to be careful, going to his house,” she said. “If you said, ‘that’s a nice chair,’ he would soon be sending you that chair or one just like it.”
Andrew Jay Schneider was born Nov. 13, 1942, in the Bronx, New York. He spent much of his childhood in Miami. His father Jack was a chef and maître d’hôtel at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach and his mother Fran was a waitress there — a background that helped produce Mr. Schneider’s formidable culinary skills.
While working in Washington, D.C., he was known for throwing dinner parties on the spur of the moment. He hosted Thanksgiving for those with no local family.
“The food was spectacular and all of us crowded around to watch him cook on a restaurant-sized stove, ”said Joann Byrd, then The Washington Post ombudsman.
Byrd, who was editorial-page editor at the P-I during Mr. Schneider’s tenure there, said, “He was always on the side of people who were suffering or being treated badly.”
His son, Patrick Schneider, is a photographer in Charlotte, North Carolina. “My dad made me the photojournalist, father and man that I am today. He taught me to always push to be my best.”
He remembered, as a boy, becoming obsessed with photojournalism. He would sleep with a police scanner in his room, then wake his father for a ride to the scene of a crime or accident to shoot it. “I think the best day of his life was when I got my driver’s license and he could get a good night’s sleep,” Patrick Schneider said.
Many colleagues remember him cooking meals for small groups or entire newsrooms. Wherever Mr. Schneider went in his career, a remodeled kitchen and great food would surely follow.
“Andy was a force of nature,” said investigative reporter Bill Lambrecht. “He was the fiercest antagonist, the truest advocate, the most loyal friend, the most generous host and cook. He would hear none of it when someone in his business bemoaned having little good to write about.
“He would say, ‘So many stories, so little time.’ ”
Besides wife Kathy and son Patrick, Mr. Schneider is survived by daughter Kelly Schneider of Seattle; first wife Carol Schneider of Charlotte; and two grandchildren.
A memorial service is planned, but arrangements are not yet set.