Miami-Dade Mayor joins NAHJ conference panel on covering traumatic events

In between appearing regularly in front of reporters to deliver updates and answer questions about the Surfside building collapse in Florida, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava addressed NAHJ conference attendees during a panel about covering traumatic events.

Miami-based, CBS national correspondent Manuel Bojorquez moderated the conversation, which included other journalists covering the disaster. They touched upon not only how reporters are coping with the trauma, but how government leaders, like Levine Cava, continue to do their jobs in the face of great tragedy.

Here are some highlights from the mayor:

Despite all the pain caused by the building collapse, Levine Cava said the response to the tragedy has been unifying. She said grief has brought the community together and has reminded people around the world to understand what is truly important, adding that they should take the time to reach out to loved ones to ensure they know they’re appreciated.

“I believe that compassion is a core part of government,” Levine Cava said. She described the government’s role in working with members of media and tending to the families of victims.

Bianca Padró Ocasio, a journalist from The Miami Herald who also discussed her experiences covering trauma, questioned the mayor about the limited access given to reporters at the scene of the collapse compared to the access politicians received.

Levine Cava said the images immediately after the collapse were jarring and the situation required respect for the families of victims and first responders. She added that if she could, she would have restricted politicians from the scene as well.

USA Today’s Romina Ruiz-Goiriena also shared her experiences in the field and asked Levine Cava what effect being Miami-Dade’s first female mayor had on her interactions with victims’ families and her staff.

“From what I understand, it’s very different having me be in this role from the former men who have been in this role,” Levine Cava said.

Levine Cava went on to stress the importance of extending compassion, respect and solidarity to the families, friends and other loved ones of victims. She said that applies to both government officials and journalists.

As she explains, it is through these and other demonstrations of kindness that allow us to connect with one another, forging a stronger bond with fellow human beings against all odds. 

Levine Cava also addressed the emotional stress journalists covering the collapse are experiencing. She encouraged reporters to let their employers know if they need space and time to decompress.

“I’ve seen many of the reporters crying during these briefings. And I know that they feel it very, very deeply,” Levine Cava said. “You’ve done an extraordinary job.”

The mayor went on to thank journalists for their coverage of the building collapse.

“It’s global. It’s international. It’s compassionate.”

Aurora Martínez is a junior at the University of Florida, where she studies journalism. In 2021, she was awarded a grant to help educate diabetes patients in her home country of Nicaragua. She has worked at WUFT News, an affiliate of NPR in Gainesville, Fla., and its Spanish-language counterpart, Noticias WUFT. In the fall, she will return as an assistant producer for Noticias WUFT. Reach her at auroraceciliam [at] gmail [dot] com and on Twitter @AuroraCeciliaM.

Olivia Montes is a senior at Washington College, where she has studied communications and media, political science and journalism, editing and publishing. She is a news intern at Delaware State News and hopes to pursue a career in print journalism, though she has recently started a podcast at her school radio station. Reach her on Twitter @MontesLiv.

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