May. 25, 2014  

We The Journalists: Craig Stevens

Craig Stevens is an award-winning news anchor for WSVN, 7 News in Miami-Fort Lauderdale. A Massachusetts native and graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., Stevens has spent the bulk of his 25-year journalism career in South Florida covering stories like Hurricane Andrew, the Elian Gonzalez saga, the murder of fashion icon Gianni Versace, the ValuJet crash in the Everglades, Fidel Castro’s visit to the United Nations and the disputed 2000 U.S. presidential election.

By John McDonald

craig stevensYou get the idea – if it’s a big story, Stevens is likely there. He recently donned the tuxedo to accept the National Academy of TV Arts & Sciences SunCoast Chapter’s Silver Circle Award, honoring his work on camera. Colleagues are quick to praise Stevens’ work in the community as well as someone who strives to make those around him better.

SPJ Florida caught up with Stevens recently to get some tips from the man with the key to the City of Miami Beach.

SPJ Florida: You covered Pope John Paul II’s visit to Cuba and the U.S. What was your impression of the Pope in light of his recent canonization?

Craig Stevens: I covered his travel on a few occasions.  Cuba, and before that a U.S. trip to New York, NJ, and Maryland.  I was amazed at his determination to reach as many people as he could.   He kept a rigorous pace – which was impressive given his age and his declining health in his final years.

You teach communications at Barry University, how are today’s students communicating and what type of stories holds their attention?

The main difference is the explosion of social media. The challenge for me has been finding ways to teach the basic tenets of journalism, and integrating that with their use of Facebook, Twitter, etc.

If you could report from anywhere on the globe, where would you be?

Wherever the big story is unfolding. There’s nothing like the adrenaline rush of being at the center of the action — I don’t get as many opportunities to do that as I’m generally in the studio — but it’s always a rush.

As a society, why are we so fascinated by Cuba?

I think in South Florida, it’s part of our collective DNA. So much of who we are, as a community, is derived from the exile experience — the toll it’s taken on families. I’m not Cuban, but you can’t help but feel for our friends and neighbors who are.

You’ve worked with some real heavyweights in news (Tom Brokaw, Tim Russert, etc.), tell us some of the important things you’ve learned?

From Bryant Gumbel (on Today) and Tim Russert — who was my boss at NBC Washington. Preparation.  If you haven’t done the homework ahead of a story — you’re toast. From Garrick Utley (who hosted Sunday Today & Meet The Press) I learned the beauty of words. I’ll never be half the writer he was — but I love trying.

You’ve got the key to the City of Miami Beach, what does that unlock?

Damned if I know!

A cat 5 hurricane is headed for South Florida, who do you call first?

Figure out who will be watching my black lab Jack – while I prepare to spend the duration of the storm at the station anchoring our coverage (let’s hope we don’t have to go through that again anytime soon – Andrew was enough for me!)

When did you first realize you wanted to be a journalist?

I was very, very young — elementary school. I was fascinated by newspapers. I started my own neighborhood paper — I’d gather stories — my dad’s secretary would type it up and make copies for me!

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