Getahn Ward, a longtime business reporter at The Tennessean who frequently welcomed new classes of Chips Quinn Scholars to CQS orientations at the John Seigenthaler Center in Nashville, Tenn., died Dec. 16 at his Nashville home after a brief illness. He was 45.
Ward completed his first Chips Quinn internship at The Tennessean in 1994, followed by an internship at The Commercial Appeal in Memphis in 1995. He also reported for the Nashville Banner and, after it closed in 1998, he rejoined The Tennessean.
Beyond his tenacious reporting for the paper, most recently covering the real estate beat, Ward demonstrated a deep commitment to the many facets of his community. He was parliamentarian and a longtime member of the Nashville chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, where he focused on supporting scholarships for student journalists. He was also an adjunct faculty member at Tennessee State University.
Born in Liberia, Ward served as secretary of the Association of Liberians in Tennessee and was head of the newsletter and website teams of the B.W. Harris Episcopal High School Alumni Association U.S.A. He also served as a deacon at Born Again Church in Nashville.
Ward moved to the United States from Liberia in 1991 and became a United States citizen in 2012. His mother was visiting him from Liberia at the time of his death.
Members of the CQS family who knew Ward offered the following reflections:
CQS Program Director Karen Catone: “I am convinced that the word ‘no’ was not in Getahn’s vocabulary. If it was, it was seldom used. Twenty classes of Chips Quinn Scholars have been trained at the John Seigenthaler Center in Nashville since January 2007. As a Chips Quinn Scholar working at the local paper, Getahn was invited to join us at the opening dinners and offer a welcome to the incoming classes. He usually managed to squeeze us into his busy schedule – even if it meant arriving a little late (because he was working on deadline) or departing a little early (to attend some city council meeting or to teach a class at TSU). But participation in the CQS program had a profound impact on Getahn’s life – so the opportunity to offer words of encouragement and make himself available to incoming scholars – is one that he took seriously and rarely missed.”
Andrea Fanta (Summer 2002), communications manager for Nashville Public Library: “Getahn loved to work sources. He put in the time and effort to cultivate sources and meet with them – not only when he wanted to ask for information but also ‘off the beat.’ In other words, it was worth it to Getahn to get to know people in the town he covered. You can’t put a price on that in reporting. A reporter’s work ethic says a lot about the rest of his newsroom character, and Getahn’s work ethic was stallion-grade. The other thing I appreciated about Getahn was his kindness, friendliness and approachability. He seemed to know he represented not only his paper but also his home country in his work. He did this with diligence and dignity.”
Tony Gonzalez (Summer 2007), enterprise reporter for Nashville Public Radio and a former Tennessean reporter: “Getahn was incredibly steadfast as a journalist, but really quite surprising as a colleague. It would be easy to think only about his dogged reporting – so many business stories, every day, and so many scoops, and such long hours that he’d work the phones. But then he would also show up to the nighttime gatherings of journalists, or the send-offs, or the local media events (not to mention his community involvements). He really did manage to be both a great reporter and a fully present friend.
“I never sat all that close to Getahn at the paper, but his colleagues there have innumerable stories of his diligence in working sources. He was the kind of reporter, so rare nowadays, who would sometimes put telephone sources on hold because he was juggling so many time-sensitive calls between his work phone and his cellphone. In response to praise for his reporting hustle, Getahn’s response was the wildly understated, ‘Just trying to stay in the game.’
“(I’d long believed that Getahn deserved his own assistant — someone who would organize all his stories onto a map or database, or who could do the work of posting those stories to the relevant neighborhood social media pages.)
“Of course, his reporting had such a ripple effect. Here at the public radio station, we must have cited his scoops on air several times a week. And I always felt a personal ‘Getahn effect’ when driving around Nashville and noticing any construction taking place: I knew I could get home, search online for his name paired with the street name, and I’d find at least one article about what was going on there. In many ways, his work will live on that way, and it’s unlikely another byline will be so ubiquitous here.”