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Tom Meagher


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Idealistic muckraker

From my old Web site’s bio:

There are times when I wonder what I’ve gotten into by becoming a journalist.

When I spent 11 hours a day working as a laborer for a story only to go to my temporary home with its shabby little bed in a rooming house, I pondered whether my reporting would make a difference.

On another story, I trudged bootless through knee-deep flood waters in a ramshackle and neglected neighborhood along the Passaic River in Paterson, New Jersey. I thought that people might not be able to comprehend the suffering of the poor that natural disasters could only compound.

And when, on assignment, I choked on pepper spray as I stood among protesters being arrested, taking notes at a presidential inauguration, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to breathe again.

But each of these times, and every day before and since, I reminded myself that if I do not write these stories, no one else will. My job is to shine a light on the lives of working Americans. Without these stories, our understanding of modern life is not only incomplete, it’s inaccurate.

The quest to tell these stories began for me at 18, when I moved from my hometown of Baltimore to the Midwest. I began to dive into the lives of the working-class and the forgotten Americans that I would later chronicle in my work. Even while I studied at, and eventually was graduated from, the world’s first journalism school at the University of Missouri, I longed to write their stories.

Since then, I have worked for several newspapers and a wire service. But I also worked in a hodgepodge of fields that have reminded me of the greater world, a world outside the halls of government and police stations where we as journalists often find ourselves stuck. I have been a welder, a construction laborer, a deli worker, a short-order cook, a DJ, a dishwasher, a record store clerk, a grocery store bagger and a closed-captioner.

Along the way, I moved to New York City where I completed my Master’s degree at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.

Today, I live in Brooklyn with my wife, her very fat cat and our very old dog. I am the research reporter–responsible for computer-assisted reporting and freedom of information requests–for the daily Herald News, about 20 miles away in New Jersey. My job allows me to pursue the kind of journalism I’ve always wanted to do. I get to write stories–about corruption, about poverty, about working, about floods and protests–that people need to read. I get to write stories that show our readers a world they never knew existed or, worse yet, never understood.

In what little free time I have, I am also researching a book that I began while a student in Samuel Freedman’s renowned book-writing seminar.

I’m very glad you stumbled upon this Web site. I hope you’re looking for the kind of stories that I like to write, stories about people who never get recognized. Now you’ll know to watch for my byline. You’ll be reading a lot more of my work.