Andale Gross is an editor at The Associated Press in Chicago, Illinois. He was previously a reporter for the AP and an award-winning reporter for the Akron Beacon Journal. I met Gross when he was my mentor for the National Association of Black Journalists’ student project in 2014. A graduate of the University of Missouri at Columbia, Gross is a veteran crime reporter who has coached me in my career, along with a vast roster of reporters. I talked with Gross by phone to gain insight into his perspective as an editor with a diverse background.
Q: How did you know you were ready to become an editor?
A: I just felt like it was time, and there was an opportunity to get into editing at AP. I went for it to see how I stacked up, and I ended up getting the job. It was a good decision ultimately. At first I was apprehensive because I didn’t know if I would do well at it. I also didn’t know if I would like not being able to go out and gather the news and report the story myself. One of the guys I had mentored gave me an endorsement. He was like, ‘Man, if you can be a good reporter, you can be a good editor.’ I said, ‘That makes sense.’ If I can be a curious, dogged news reporter, then I can do the same as an editor. That gave me the confidence, along with other people telling me to go for it. Also, as an African American, there were often times when you look at the whole package and go, ‘Man, why aren’t we covering this story or that story?’ At the AP, even though there are editors above me, I have more of a voice as an editor than as a reporter about how we’re covering something or how a story gets played. People listen to me more because of the position, so that’s a reward in itself.
Why do you think minority journalism organizations like NABJ are important?
I’ve been active in NABJ since 1992, when I was a student at Mizzou. NABJ has been the stage for me to get a lot of the opportunities I’ve been afforded. I got an internship in the Minneapolis Star Tribune going to NABJ as a student. I got my first job at a semi-major newspaper, the Akron Beacon Journal, through meeting an editor at NABJ. I got an AP job through NABJ. I will forever be indebted to NABJ, and that’s why I continue to stay active and now try to give back through the multimedia project. I don’t feel like there’s any other organization like it for African Americans who want to stay in media.
In the last couple of years, you’ve seen a lot more focus on the police shootings and a lot of other issues that affect minorities, African Americans in particular. NABJ is going to continue to be relevant as long as those issues continue to crop up. People talk about the relevance of NABJ. There’ll always be a place for NABJ because of what’s going on in our communities as far as African Americans are concerned. As long as we’re going to need journalists of color to cover those issues, NABJ is going to have a place. It gives us a voice and a platform for what we all do as African American journalists, and it allows us to go out broadly with it.
What advice can you give to journalists covering crime and race?
We often say ‘we’re journalists first, African Americans second.’ While that’s true, we should not shy away from the things that make us unique as human beings and as journalists. If you’re African American and covering crime in your community, particularly as it pertains to minorities, use your experience as an African American to tell the story. Approach the story in a manner that lets you shed light on what’s going on in our neighborhoods. If you know that underneath the crime there’s an education or economical problem, use that lens to dig deeper and tell our stories.
In other words, don’t just write a story about the body count. Delve in and explore what might be at the heart of what makes people kill themselves or clash with the police. Don’t just talk about “this person was shot on this day,” and don’t just interview the authorities and the police and the victim’s family. Find out as many sides as you can to the story. Interview (the family of) the person who’s charged with the crime, talk to people in the neighborhood. Tell as full a picture as you can so that the story actually is breathing life into what’s going on instead of making people out to be caricatures in the story. That will make our coverage across the board a lot more boundless.
What’s the hiring scene like for young people?
It’s tough, right? In (any industry) there’s always a challenge to get your foot in the door. The advantage young people have is they’re eager, smart and mobile. I encourage young people to be flexible and open-minded, and to look at the opportunities out there. Try not to put yourself in a box. There are a lot of opportunities, particularly with the internet, social media, multimedia, that I didn’t have coming out of college in ’93. So much has changed in technology. Now you guys are in this space where you can write your own ticket and make your own path. Even if you don’t have a job or internship with a major company, you can blog or make your own website. A wide audience can see your work without you having a big organization to back you. I encourage you guys to exploit, exploit your talent and make sure you stay visible. The rest is going to take care of itself. Everybody’s cutting back, but looking at it overall, with what’s going on with the digital age, you have a lot more opportunities in that lane. Take advantage of it.