With hurricane season officially over, SPJ Florida joined with fellow journalism groups in South Florida to host a discussion about our reporting of natural disasters and their aftermath.
Hosted with the South Florida Black Journalists Association and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists South Florida chapter, speakers were varied in their experience in different media, as well as community and media activists.
“We worked hard to make sure we covered all our bases in how we cover disasters as journalists — from online to print, radio, television, and photography,” said SPJ Florida President Christiana Lilly. “Each medium has different challenges and ethical conundrums when it comes to reporting on disaster survivors.”
The event was kicked off by famed meteorologist John Morales, who shares his experience as a trustworthy voice for viewers through hurricane season, including his coverage of Hurricanes Andrew, Irene, and most recently, Irma and Maria. The second session was a panel of journalists — Nadege Green of WLRN, known for her coverage of underrepresented communities; Christian de la Rosa of Local 10 News, who is Puerto Rican and saw first-hand the devastation on the island, as well as in his coverage of hurricanes and wildfires. There were also community members, Valencia Gunder, a community activist who was able to speak on neighborhoods who are overlooked in coverage, and David L. Rosen, who served as a community liaison during his years as a police officer.
“Sometimes journalists treat disasters of any sort as an event with casualty numbers, wind speed, average affected, and damage estimates,” said SFBJA President Carolyn Guniss. “It is an event, but it is an event about people, and not in the broad strokes such as where to find gas and water, but that disasters disrupt people’s lives on every level and we need to be cognizant of that in every question we ask.”
Finally, Magaly Rivera, the executive director of the Latino Public Radio Consortium, discussed the aftermath of reporting on disasters for journalists, namely in Puerto Rico. With many areas still without power three months later, reporters on the island are still struggling to get news out in a timely fashion and without modern conveniences. The consortium has been raising money to send crank radios to Puerto Rico, and was able to send the first batch in October.
“The symposium brought to light how journalists are affected during the whole disaster-coverage process. Also, how they have to balance getting the stories they need and making sure to have compassion for the survivors they are interviewing,” said Pilar Portela, NAHJ South Florida.
Furthering the discussion on disaster coverage, the event was hosted at the Bubble Wynwood, a new company that creates cost-effective pop-up event space, but can also double as quick shelters after disasters.
How can we help?
Many funds have been created to help journalists in communities hit by this hurricane season. Here are three ways that you can help:
Learn more about our speakers:
Nadege Green covers social justice issues for WLRN. For her, journalism boils down to not only telling the stories of the people who are accessible, but also seeking out the voices we don’t hear from, and telling those stories too. In 2016 she was recognized by the National Association of Black Journalists with three first-place awards for investigative reporting, long-form and short-form radio reporting on policing in Miami-Dade’s black communities. Green’s work has also been honored by the Florida AP Broadcaster Awards. She previously worked at the Miami Herald covering local city governments and the Haitian community. She studied English with a specialization in professional writing at Barry University.
Rivera is the executive director for the Latino Public Radio Consortium, an organization that works to strengthen Latino public radio stations throughout the U.S. She has been in broadcast and public media combined for more than 35 years. She has her own company, Mag Advisors, a boutique consulting firm focused on strategy growth planning and business development for corporations and small businesses interested in the US Hispanic market. Previously, Rivera was vice president of development for HITN, a national public service television network, where her leadership brought the nonprofit more than $35 million in funding in five years.
De la Rosa joined Local 10 News in April 2017 after spending time as a reporter and anchor in Atlanta, San Diego, Orlando and Panama City Beach. He’s covered an array of national interest stories, including hurricanes and wildfires, and he has held numerous government officials accountable. De la Rosa has also done extensive reporting along the border, crossing into Mexico to bring viewers an in-depth look into our country’s immigration crisis. His love for travel and cultures has also taken him to Africa, where he shot, wrote and directed an award-winning documentary about the fight against poverty and AIDS in the region. He is a graduate of the University of Florida.