tony gonzalez journalist
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Online portfolio and blog by Tony Gonzalez, family issues reporter for The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville. I married my high school sweetheart, Katie, a designer and bookbinder. I like juggling, maps, baseball, and bullmastiffs.

Two years at The Tennessean, July 2011 to present. Three years reporting and editing at The News Virginian, 2008 to 2011. Editor of college and high school newspapers. Internships at The Star Tribune, The Detroit News, and The Toledo Free Press. Chips Quinn Scholar 2007.

Tennessee Associated Press Managing Editors 2012 statewide Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting, as well as the Freedom of Information award, for Department of Children's Services project.

Gannett company-wide award 2012 for Watchdog Journalism

Associated Press Managing Editors 2010 International Perspective First Place for "The Borders Within," as well as Public Service Honorable Mention for investigation into troubled children's psychiatric hospital

2009 and 2010 winner, with staff, of the Virginia Press Association's highest award: the Award for Journalistic Integrity and Community Service.

Virginia Press Association 2008, 2009, and 2010 awards for crime, investigative, breaking news, and feature writing

2011 Robert Novak Fellow

Michigan Collegiate Press Association "Journalist of the Year" 2008

Chips Quinn Scholar, Class of 2007

Civil Rights Project DCS project
Borders Within Multimedia
Sunday, December 21, 2014
Little Pantry provides more than food
The Little Pantry That Could

By Tony Gonzalez
The Tennesssean

Hunger and necessity bring most people to The Little Pantry That Could — for the first time, at least. 

But it's not just the free food that draws them back. Many come to just while away the better part of a day without picking up any food at all.

That's because food pantry founder Stacy Downey and her crew dole out something more than canned beans and sweet potatoes each Saturday from their church cellar, tucked into an alleyway off Charlotte Avenue.

There's eye contact, for one. And hugs — also free. And everyone gets along on a first name basis. Downey says these are the essentials to creating a food pantry where no one feels shame when they show up for help. These are the little courtesies that some of the regulars — especially those who live on the streets — can't easily find anywhere else.

"I heard horror stories," Downey said. "People said, 'Oh I was a kid, I had to go to this food pantry. I was so embarrassed. It was terrible.' "

Read the full story at

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by Tony @ 1:02 PM, : comments: 0
Saturday, September 06, 2014
The making of a teen magician
By Tony Gonzalez
The Tennesssean

David Torres is in the business of leaving people speechless.

Dressed most days in a brightly colored tie and vest, the teenager confounds anyone who will watch with his growing repertoire of magic tricks, puppetry, juggling and one particularly animated eyebrow.

He's learning to be as quick with a joke as he is with a deck of playing cards, which he pulls from one of a seemingly infinite number of hidden pockets. Where he finds his quick wit — that's harder to say.

But Torres, just 14 years old, seems to have unlocked these elusive talents thanks to an intriguing combination: inspiration from his parents, nurturing from leaders in his neighborhood and the happy coincidence that his family ended up in Nashville.

Where all of this energy ends up taking him is anyone's guess. It has the potential to lead to scholarships at some point, and that could be crucial to his future.

That's because Torres faces a path filled with obstacles. He falls into the category of a "dreamer," a child born elsewhere but brought to America by undocumented parents early in life. For the moment he is a beneficiary of the Obama administration's "deferred action" policy, which protects young people like him from deportation, but the national immigration debate remains unsettled.

Because he does not have citizenship, Torres can't qualify for federal financial aid, making scholarships that much more important.

But as he walks the halls of school each week, that's not what drives him to put on a show.

Read the full story at


by Tony @ 12:37 AM, : comments: 0
Friday, April 18, 2014
Nashville more than 'black and white and country music'
By Tony Gonzalez
The Tennesssean 

He had already learned English, but understanding the Southern accent — that was the hard part for Somchay Manivong.

The locals thought he sounded funny, too.

He arrived in Murfreesboro in 1989 with an accent of his own, inflected with tones of the Laotian and French languages he learned growing up, before war forced his family to flee Laos in southeast Asia.

It was in that voice that Manivong recorded his personal story on Dec. 10, both preserving it for his family and joining in a project with a much wider reach. The stories of 39 immigrants, recorded recently by the Nashville Public Library and StoryCorps, take on the mission of telling the rest of the nation about the diverse, cosmopolitan city Nashville has become.

"To the outside world, Nashville is still black and white and country music," said Andrea Blackman, library special collections manager.

Read the full story at


by Tony @ 3:44 PM, : comments: 0
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
Alcohol takes Nashville teen to the bottom and back

By Tony Gonzalez
The Tennesssean

The parents sensed something amiss when their teen daughter went to school three days in a row wearing the same clothes — hair uncombed — to start her senior year.

Not long before, she had enthusiastically toured colleges, asking questions and imagining campus life. But as the school year began in August 2013, Regan Webber told her mother, Trey, and father, Gerald, that she no longer wanted to take the ACT or go off to college after graduation.

What the Bellevue couple couldn’t figure out was whether Regan’s dour moods, complicated lies and escalating alcohol use were anything more than the typical grabs for independence of a normal 17-year-old.

Read the full story at


by Tony @ 11:36 AM, : comments: 0
Friday, January 17, 2014
Vintage book covers: Illustrations
Flood Friday Lois Lenski book cover

These four illustrated book covers come from a variety of sources. We found "Flood Friday," along with some other Lois Lenski books, from a local collector/bookseller. The "Gravity" book below, one of my favorites in our house, came from a good friend who frequents estate sales.

The last book included here probably has the best book title I know (there's one that competes, which I'll mention in a moment). The book, "What Kinda Cactus Izzat?" has special meaning to my wife and I, because I proposed to her inside a cactus and succulent greenhouse in Michigan. We've had an affinity for cacti ever since.

Gravity vintage book

Shining Bridges vintage book cover

What Kinda Cactus Izzat?

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by Tony @ 9:07 PM, : comments: 0
Friday, January 10, 2014
The quest to be Tennessee's top blood donor

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Wear and tear on a #businesscard noticed #onassignment today. #RedCross #behindthescenes
Inside the Red Cross offices in Nashville, where success in the daily mission is literally measured in blood, one man can motivate even veteran staff members to give one more time.

Because it’s hard to resist the example set by Nathan Baker.

The 60-year-old Madison man has given more blood than anyone else in a 70-county area that includes most of Tennessee and Kentucky and parts of Illinois and Missouri. He also happens to work out of the Nashville Red Cross office as a roving teacher, speaking about the life-or-death importance of blood donation in hundreds of classrooms each year.

So what does it take to be the No. 1 donor?

Baker recently let nurses prick his forearm for the 500th time, a one-of-a-kind accomplishment in the region that has yielded some 63 gallons of blood. The average human body contains up to 1.5 gallons.

Local Red Cross records say that’s more than anyone else — a coveted title that feeds a competitive urge — and a testament to Baker’s consistent giving since his first timid trip to the donation chair, 41 years earlier, as a freshman at Trevecca Nazarene University.

Read the full story at

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by Tony @ 1:54 PM, : comments: 0
Thursday, January 09, 2014
A different kind of notable deaths story

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One of the most interesting things I found during a year of close reading of the obits. These ran on back-to-back days. Both would be odd images for an obit — they're actually one photo, just cropped to the wrong person the first day.
Two years ago, I watched an editor spend almost a week digging through a year's worth of newspapers to assemble a list of notable deaths before the year was up. Last year, I basically duplicated that kind of last-minute effort.

In 2013, I started collecting obituaries on Jan. 1, in a manila envelope that soon grew fat. By the fall, I'd turned up a few beautiful obituaries written by families, and a collection of odd and endearing nicknames that families deemed worthy of inclusion in their remembrances.

Coupled with my recent reading of "The Dead Beat," about obituary writers (a book I've wanted to read for a couple years), I was primed for an end-of-the-year send up on the art of obit writing.

Here's what we delivered: two short narratives about families approaching obit writing and a lengthy round-up of notable deaths with an emphasis on unsung locals.

:: What to say when words don't come easy
:: When a nickname fits, it follows to the grave
:: Tennesseans who changed the world

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by Tony @ 2:00 PM, : comments: 0
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