As a journalist and member of the News4JAX I-TEAM, Tarik Minor is used to asking the tough questions, often when the people he’s interviewing doesn’t necessarily want to answer them. So it was a trip for Tarik seeing the tables turned Tuesday when he hosted an Ask Me Anything and it was your turn to ask the questions.
Among other things, we found out how Tarik and his wife Melanie strike a work-life balance with the demands of working in local TV news, what career path he might have pursued if not for journalism, which lessons he’s taking away from the pandemic, and what retirement might look like for this modern-day renaissance man.
And that’s just scratching the surface of our conversation. It’s worth mentioning that we’ve edited some of these questions and responses for the sake of clarity. Now, without further ado, here’s Tarik’s AMA:
How did you become an investigative reporter, and do you have any advice for those who aspire to become an investigative reporter?
I started in the news business in 1998, but before that, even in college, people always suspected I was a police officer or something. It was because I was always asking questions. Guess I’ve always wanted to get to the truth of the matter, any matter.
When I was younger, I used to carry around an old audio tape recorder and just try to ad lib as long as I could on things like traffic, or whatever I was seeing at the time, to learn how to communicate and listen to myself. As for advice for being an investigative reporter specifically, I’d suggest you somehow try to get an internship (if you’re not in the news business) and latch onto a reporter who can show you the ropes. If not, groups like IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors) are a tremendous resource.
How long have you been at News4JAX?
I’ve been at News4JAX since 2010 after marrying my lovely wife and Morning Show Anchor Melanie Lawson.
What’s one thing that’s been good for you during the pandemic? When things go back to normal, what routine or change would you like to keep?
I think the pandemic has been horrible overall, but there are many silver linings, like spending more time with family, getting off technology (cell phones/computers) and spending time outdoors, playing sports or just breathing in the fresh air.
I miss my parents the most in the Washington, D.C. area, as they have not visited me out of fear for the virus. But I’ve learned to appreciate the small things in life, and to take the good and the bad.
When the pandemic passes, I will continue with the personal time I’ve developed through the pandemic by myself and with my family and close friends.
I’m not a huge Zoom person. Can’t say I really enjoy the platform over meeting in person.
You recently went on vacation. What was it like being unplugged?
I loved being off the grid. I grew a full beard! And didn’t check the news headlines for an entire week!
What investigative work are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of our team’s Emmy-winning documentary and story recounting the Space Shuttle Challenger launch and explosion. We did a wonderful piece on this story on its 30-year anniversary.
You recently performed an experiment on the U.S. Postal Service. What was that like and were you concerned about letting the cat out of the bag?
I was concerned about our USPS investigation, worrying that postal workers would deliver our mail in a more timely fashion because they knew they were under the microscope. But I don’t think the preview stories had any bearing on the final story. Check it out.
Would you mind sharing details on some of your findings?
We found roughly 5 percent of the mail we sent was damaged. And that damaged mail could equate to your ballot being damaged. Best advice is to simply mail it early, and check and track your ballot online to make sure it’s been counted. Once you know it’s been counted, you have nothing to worry about. Democracy works!
You and Melanie both work in TV news. How do you as a couple strike a work-life balance?
It’s really tough. When I get home at 7:30 p.m., Melanie is preparing for bed at 8:30. When she wakes up at 3:30 a.m., I’m knocked out to the world, asleep. We are weekend warriors, really, and try our best to make dates during the work week, whether it’s breakfast, simply coffee, lunch or an interrupted conversation without the kids.
Honestly, our schedule was very challenging in the early years of our marriage. Eleven years later, we’ve got it down to a science.
What was your favorite meal during your recent vacation?
I had a wonderful steak and crusted flounder. I love to eat!!! My kids said I was gaining weight recently. That wasn’t the best feeling. Kids say the darnedest things!
What’s the most tense interview you’ve ever done, and why?
I traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, to investigate an alleged slum lord, who at the time owned Eureka Gardens in Jacksonville. Ironically, he was a pastor as well. We learned he was spending the money he should have earmarked for his HUD properties on his own conference center and compound where he was holding events like weddings etc. He cried on camera once we were able to confront him about his spending. He eventually sold all his properties after being exposed.
It was rewarding. I really felt like we made a difference. We ended up winning an AP award as well for individual achievement.
If you weren’t a TV anchor and reporter, what would you be doing?
I wanted to be a dentist originally, but I ended up turning to music. I have a music engineering degree and am capable of playing drums, cymbals, guitars etc., making beats and mastering audio tracks. Even with that degree, though, I ended up becoming a journalist. Go figure. I love all genres of music, however, and play the guitar.
And when I do end up retiring from the news industry, I plan on continuing with my production company plans. I shoot, edit and enjoy conceptualizing videos as a hobby. I also surf, cycle and love the outdoors.
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