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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014

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In Milwaukee Buzz

"I've worked in a lot of places -- I always wanted the police beat." (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography )

In Milwaukee Buzz

"You (can't) complain about the business if you don't have a hand in educating." (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography )

In Milwaukee Buzz

"The cops always said that I was fair, which is all I ask of the media now." (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography )

In Milwaukee Buzz

"I have a job that I love. How many people can say that?" (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography )

Milwaukee Talks: MPD's Anne E. Schwartz


Anne E. Schwartz, Public Relations Manager for the Milwaukee Police Department, sports a resume more complete than three women her age. You might remember Schwartz when she was a reporter at Channel 12 or Channel 4, or perhaps when she was the managing editor at the Waukesha Freeman or as a young reporter for the old Milwaukee Journal's Green Sheet.

But you probably remember her work on the biggest story she ever covered: the gruesome tale of Jeffrey Dahmer, which she broke nationally in 1991. Her reporting earned her a book deal, a gig on Court TV and even a Pulitzer Prize nomination. And in a career that has twisted and turned through Milwaukee's media landscape, the sassy, frankly honest and incredibly dedicated Schwartz is back working with the people whom she identifies with most: Milwaukee cops.

For the last three years, Schwartz has put the public face on a department led by Chief Nan Hegerty, weathering some difficult stories but always pledging the "unfiltered truth." It's a commitment that this former police beat reporter takes very seriously.

We sat down with Schwartz recently for another edition of Milwaukee Talks:

OMC: In your position, do you feel ready for any question the media can ask you, because you've already been on the other side?

Anne E. Schwartz: That's really why the chief wanted to put me in this position. I spent 26 years on the other side, asking the questions. But the immediacy of the job of journalist is very different now. You used to have time to put the story together. Back when I started at the Journal as a stringer for the Green Sheet in '87, it was wonderful. I got to be in the newsroom when I wasn't waitressing at the old Coffee Trader. But now, I'm rarely surprised by a question. I can always figure out the questions they're going to ask.

I have to laugh, because I was always a "glass full" kind of person, but the chief jokes that I'm her "glass empty" person. I always think about how something is going to be bad.

OMC: So you literally play "bad cop?"

Schwartz: I always come up with the (scenarios in which) the story is going to be bad.

OMC: Do you craft your messages, then, with the knowledge of how it will be perceived?

Schwartz: Sure, my job is to shape the public perception of the Milwaukee Police Department.

OMC: In the briefing room this morning, I noticed how young the TV and print reporters were.

Schwartz: Oh yeah, I felt really old in there. Sometimes I'll talk about the Dahmer case, and some of them weren't even around.

OMC: Do you think it's interesting that a police beat is typically a starter job in the media?

Schwartz: I always thought it was the best beat in the newsroom. Every single place I've worked -- and clearly, I've worked in a lot of places -- I always wanted the police beat. And I was good at it, because I enjoyed it. A lot of times (reporters) don't enjoy it, because it takes you to neighborhoods that you're not used to going to. Sometimes you have to talk to cops who don't like the media. And the victims ... it's a very difficult job.

I was a professor for many years at Carroll College and now at MATC. At Carroll, I taught a beginning newswriting course, and I loved that. You don't get to complain about the business and the people doing the job if you don't have some sort of hand in helping or educating.

Through MATC and the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command, I teach media relations to law enforcement officers all over the country. I give them a seminar on media relations, like how to deal with the media in officer shootings. Or what do you do when big media comes to town, or writing policy and procedures. I also teach building relationships with the media in getting pro-active stories out there, and they even learn how to write a press release.

OMC: You have one of the most interesting resumes of anyone I have ever met. Can you give our readers the abridged Anne E. Schwartz story?

Schwartz: I always wanted to be a writer. I never wanted to be anything else. I went to Missouri's journalism school, where you write for the local paper. You make real people angry when you spell their names wrong. I was covering crime even then.

I got out of school and went to Washington, D.C. I'm fluent in Spanish, so I worked for an organization called the Council For Hemispheric Affairs. They were concerned even back in 1982 about immigration reform. I did a lot of reporting on the Hill for their newsletter.

OMC: Why did you come back to Milwaukee?

Schwartz: My mother died in 1987 and I came back here to help my dad -- I'm an only child. I contacted one of our old neighbors who's still the drama critic at the Journal Sentinel and asked if there was any way to get my foot in the door there. He brought me in to talk about being a stringer, and they said they would give me a try. I started stringing for the Green Sheet, and I never thought there was a silly story. Anything they asked me to, I would do. And I think I got that reputation in the business, for good or bad. I was aggressive about getting stories.

Eventually they had an opening for the weekend cops reporter, and this was probably the worst shift in the world -- 3:30 p.m. to midnight, 1:30 a.m. on Saturday.

OMC: So it was great for your social life?

Schwartz: For me, being able to write the cover stories, I didn't care. My office was here at the Police Building. I shared it with a Sentinel reporter. This was before we had cell phones, so if we had a really hot tip, we had to run out in the hallway and use a pay phone to call it in.

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Talkbacks

perublues | June 13, 2008 at 11:46 p.m. (report)

Congratulaciones por tus logros profesionales. God bless you. Artie.

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andreapioneer | Nov. 28, 2007 at 10:10 p.m. (report)

Anne Schwartz was an amazing professor at Carroll College! Not only was she an outstanding journalism instructor, Anne also brought a unique learning experience to life. As a former student, I can honestly say not only did she help find my passion for writing, but she made it real. Anne Schwartz truly had a unique influence on my life, both personally and professionally; if I could develop the amount of talent she has in her little finger in my career, I'll consider myself successful.

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MarkTwainLaurie | Jan. 27, 2007 at 6:44 p.m. (report)

I'm an old college bud of Anne's from Mizzou. She's done well; we're proud of you Ann(ie)! Seems there are some skeptical folks in Milwaukee who want to put you under the microscope..... Ouch! Not sure why. But they've gotten me to reevaluate my view of Northerners. What's up with the back-biting? For a moment there, I felt like I was reading comments from my hometown paper, the St.Louis post-Dispatch. There'll always be Naysayers, my friend. Disregard them.

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OMCreader | Oct. 5, 2006 at 12:14 a.m. (report)

al said: Sandy: You're correct. Anne E. Schwartz is "only" the source, and as is said, "you're only as good as your source." So the question is how good a source is Schwartz, the MPD spokeswoman, and can she be believed?

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OMCreader | Oct. 4, 2006 at 11:22 a.m. (report)

Elizabeth said: Credibility is called into question here. This involves 2 people,the writer and the subject. Were they assumptions on the writer's part or lies on the part of the subject. It would be best served if someone would respond to this, either Andy, Ms Schwartz or both.

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