Q: Why did you decide to pursue television news as a career?
A: Focused on telling difficult stories and exposing wrongdoing since the 1980s, I found there was nothing more powerful than using pictures to bring these stories into people's living rooms. TV sparks an emotional connection that isn't possible on other platforms and I love how people realize the impact and importance when a story is told well on a television newscast.
Q: What was your first job?
A: My hometown radio station hired me to report the news while I was still in high school in Ohio. While other teenagers would have enjoyed the part of the job that included spinning records and being a disc jockey, I was immediately hooked on digging up stories and being the first to tell people what was going on.
Q: What is on your DVR?
A: Shipping Wars, Shark Tank, Two Broke Girls (go figure)
Q: What is favorite way to spend a day off?
A: Riding my Harley in the country or with friends is always perfect. I love hills and curves.
Q: Favorite restaurant in Indy?
A: St. Elmo Steakhouse
Q: Most memorable story you ever covered?
A: The March 2005 explosion of the BP refinery at Texas City, just south of Houston will stay with me forever. I reported for network newscasts and the NBC affiliate in Houston from above in a helicopter for 8-hours after this tragedy that killed 15 workers and left 280 injured. Unfolding live on the air, I described the desperate search by one man tearing his way through the rubble without any protective gear. He pushed past the fully suited up firefighters in search of his wife, who was later found among the dead.
Q: Favorite book, movie?
A: “The Social Animal” a college psych textbook. “Moneyball” with Brad Pitt
Q: What is something that would surprise people about you?
A: I actually reported a few stories on horseback during the 17-years I worked in Houston. Horses know when you're not paying proper attention to the reins, so while I was distracted during one live shot, my horse proceeded to stray out into the oncoming lane of traffic. I was a veteran trailrider in Houston, riding with some of my best friends for more than 12 years. Trailrides involve hundreds of horses and wagons and gorgeous country scenery.
Q: Best advice you ever got?
A: An elected leader at city hall in Columbus, Ohio told me something that always stuck with me. She said, for politicians, "There is no future in long range planning." When she told me that in the 90s, I realized why government behaves the way it does and that's helped in my reporting.
Q: Favorite vacation spot?
A: My wife and I enjoy a secluded beach that no one knows about on one of the Hawaiian Islands. We spend hours and hours there and we never see a soul.
Q: Do you have any pets?
A: My wife and I have enjoyed our rescue dog for many years, and she is now joined by a Texas cat.
Q: When I am not at work I am…
A: I love working on my family’s farm. There's something magical about working hard outdoors, whether it's building this cattle feeder or loading bales of hay, or even wrestling a steer for a certain procedure. Driving the tractor is fun and when the weekend is done on the farm, I can't recall stressing about much.
Q: What advice would you give someone to get into business?
A: Find an area of specialty and focus your energy on becoming an expert in as many things as you can. Also, question everything.
Q: When you have visitors to Indy where do you take them?
A: I always take folks to the race track. There is nothing like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, even if you're just looking at it while driving by.
Q: Favorite childhood memory?
A: I was the ice cream man at the age of 9. For a couple of summers, I peddled my very own treat cycle around my hometown in Ohio. I learned business at an early age and I can still remember the look on people's faces when they'd hear the bells jingling and know a snack was being delivered.
Q: What is your proudest career moment?
A: I can't describe the feeling of watching the President of the United States sign a law that came about because of my work. Some military leaders called me lots of names as my reporting exposed their mishandling of rape investigations involving their own soldiers, but Congress stepped up and changed the law so these crimes will be handled properly because of this work.
Q: What electronic gadget can you not live without?
A: My iPhone is a necessity. I didn't want to like it, but when I was issued one at a previous station, I realized I gotta have one of my own.
Q: What is the hardest thing you have ever had to do?
A: The toughest thing I've ever done is selling and moving away from the dream house that my wife and I built in Houston. We designed every inch of a unique haven with a third floor turret and everything we could ever want in a home. We'd both sit and stare at all the neat stuff we built into that home, so it was tough when we realized it was time to move back to the Midwest.
Q: What is the scariest thing you have ever done?
A: I've feared for my life while covering more than a couple stories, but covering Hurricane Ike in 2008 was horrifying. My crew in Houston flattened two tires, tipped the live truck nearly onto its side in storm surge flooding, and then got trapped in a freeway tollbooth during landfall. With 110 mph winds aimed at us, the tollbooth started to come apart like the movie Twister as we were underneath it.
Q: Did you have a mentor in your career?
A: The news director who hired me at 610 WTVN in Columbus, Ohio in 1989 taught me a lot inside and outside of broadcasting. I'm still in touch and consider Dave Claborn to be a great friend. He taught me the urgency of presenting the news, and he taught me how it’s all about "finding interesting stuff and putting it on the air." I learned from him that staying focused on the core of your mission can get you through most challenges.
Q: If you weren't in your current profession what would you be doing?
A: Selling stuff online has been a hobby for more than a decade, so I can imagine having fun with that. I've sold thousands of items for friends and even for the TV station I worked at in Houston. I emptied out an entire warehouse full of office furniture and medical equipment for a friend, learning how to sell stuff even if I didn't know what some of the items were. I think it's a hoot.
Q: What is your proudest accomplishment?
A: I’ve kept the original script from my first ever investigative report in 1984 because of what it means to me. There were no awards or ratings. It was my finest achievement because a farmer hugged me and said my reporting had saved her family’s farm. Their livestock was being killed by a nearby fertilizer plant, but the EPA and sheriff offered her no help. I crawled through ditches and fields, taking samples like the movie Erin Brockovich, and two days after the report aired, the EPA shut the plant down. When that farmer cried and thanked me, I knew I wanted to be an investigative reporter for sure.
Peabody Award winning investigative reporter Stephen Dean has been exposing abuses of power and government missteps since 1984.
His first hidden camera report for the Call 6 Investigators came the very week he joined the RTV6 team in late 2012, uncovering an Indiana mayor giving his relative a city job despite being a registered sex offender.
Deploying hidden cameras unlike anyone else, Dean consistently exposes business and government secrets in a way that gets results.
Indiana legislators took notice when his reporting revealed a legal loophole that allowed dangerous felons to work around children at Indiana carnivals in 2013. Plus, Congress was pushed to act when Dean documented how many smuggled cellphones were allowing Indiana prison inmates to harass and threaten people on the outside. A state senator even sent DVD copies of the RTV6 reports to Capitol Hill as evidence of how urgently action was needed.
In one 2013 hidden camera report, Dean and the Call 6 Investigators team found how many businesses throughout the country and across the Internet were flying drones illegally, leading to concerns about danger for airplanes and people on the ground. By pushing for records that had never been released from the FAA, this reporting has continued to guide other news reporting on drones as new regulations are being conceived. In Houston, Dean led a news helicopter crew and several hidden camera teams to break the story on the nation’s first ever test of drones for local police agencies. Those reports have remained a viral hit online for years, and they prompted Houston’s mayor to ditch plans for her police to use drones for everything from drug cases to speeding tickets.
Dean came back home to the Midwest after 17-years on the air in Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city. His investigative reporting there went after numerous judges and two elected police officers who were removed from office because of the scandals Dean uncovered. One of the constables was even indicted and arrested after Dean’s stories hit the airwaves.
Also in Houston, Dean’s reporting exposed a police practice of using mentally ill prisoners to practice drawing blood for drunken driving arrests. The mayor quickly ordered a stop to the practice because of his reports.
He won the Peabody Award for an expose’ that has forever changed how the United States military investigates crimes within its ranks. His reporting found the Army refusing to use DNA evidence to catch its own soldiers accused of rape, prompting Congress to pass a bill that was signed into law by the President to change that.
His other national awards include the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Award and the coveted Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio Television News Directors Association.
Dean’s reporting led to the dismantling of an entire police force during his years in Texas. When police complained that dozens of shady characters were spotted with badges and guns all over Houston, Dean traced those badges to one wealthy citizen who had found a legal loophole allowing him to create a fully licensed police department. When Dean exposed the bought-and-paid-for police force, a grand jury convened to consider criminal charges, the police force was forced to disband, and the Texas Legislature closed the loophole that allowed it to happen.
Prior to his work at the NBC affiliate in Houston, Dean worked at two television stations in Columbus, Ohio. He has covered four state capitols and has worked in radio newsrooms in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
A nationally published author, Dean’s first two books focused on Internet predators and the secret lives adults lead online. His later books provided looks inside public relations mistakes during emergencies, as well as stories from an entire neighborhood of homes owned by a mysterious Texas business.
A Harley rider who works on a farm for fun, Dean has been married to the love of his life since 1997. They are both thrilled to be back home in the Midwest.