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Translating Tragedy

Translating Tragedy

For Marci Gonzalez, '05, an ABC News Correspondent who has covered horrific events from the mass shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, to the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake, dealing with disaster is part of telling the story.

Summer 2014

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a television news reporter. I started doing the televised morning announcements in elementary school, was an anchor of the morning news in middle and high school, and then I chased my love for journalism to UCF.”

When a big story breaks, no matter what time of day or night, I get a phone call and have to run out the door to the airport. I keep a ‘go bag’ semipacked, and then I throw in a few extras based on what kind of story I’m covering. Tornadoes mean rain boots, jeans and T-shirts. For nonweather stories, I pack dress clothes. The trick I’ve learned is to have a bit of everything, because sometimes news breaks when you’re out covering something else.”

“The Newtown school shooting was the most difficult story I’ve ever covered. There was so much sadness in that town. I swear the air felt different. I simply couldn’t wrap my mind around the horror those families and that community were experiencing. It’s the only time I’ve ever gotten choked up right before a live shot.”

Each time I’ve had to talk to someone on the worst day of his or her life, I’ve learned a little bit more about the sensitivity and tact needed to cover tragedies. I think you have to approach people with compassion first and foremost, and it has to be genuine — people can see the difference.”

I think there is a huge misconception that this is a glamorous job. We go for days only being able to sleep for an hour or two a night, followed by 20-hour shifts. We put our makeup on in car mirrors. And bathrooms? Forget it. Think of natural disasters where everything is destroyed; where do you think all of those reporters take a restroom break? Nowhere. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it is for people who have a passion for working hard and telling impactful stories.”


Anchoring World News Now with Alex Perez:
"I’m a correspondent for ABC News and work primarily for NewsOne, the department that provides content for all of the local ABC affiliates in the country, as well as partner networks internationally," says Gonzalez.

Covering a blizzard in Cohasset, Massachusetts:
"There really is no typical day," says Gonzalez.  "I love that every day is different. I wake up every morning not knowing what city I’ll fall asleep in that night. It’s really exciting." 

Covering the 2010 Haiti earthquake from the National Palace:
"The day the earthquake hit, I took a bold and maybe not-so-wise move of jumping on a plane with a camera but without permission from my bosses," says Gonzalez. "And while I would never recommend that other journalists dart off to a disaster alone and without consent from his or her managers, I did learn that sometimes you have to take bold chances to prove your capabilities."  

Filming at a refugee camp after the 2010 Haiti earthquake:
"After returning [from Haiti] to some very unhappy bosses [in New York], I was able to convince them to send me back three more times," Gonzalez says. "I think I proved that I was capable of holding my own in a challenging environment, all while shooting compelling video and telling impactful stories. I’m not sure that I would have gotten those [future] opportunities had I not taken the extreme chance that I did with that first trip." 

Covering the deadly 2013 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma:
"The careful approach needed to cover a story deemed a tragedy on a national or global scale is no different from covering a story of heartbreak for one individual family," says Gonzales. "You listen, speak sincerely, and do your best to capture the genuine emotion of whatever you’re covering."

Surveying tornado damage in Moore, Oklahoma:
"I’m always surprised by the people who want to talk to us," Gonzalez says. "They want to talk in hopes that there can be a lesson in however their loved one died. Perhaps they want help finding the person responsible, or they want to share their love for the person who passed. I think it takes a lot of strength to share such personal emotion, especially in front of a camera and a stranger."

"With so many of the major national television outlets beginning to cover more celebrity news and stories that are 'catchy,' I think this is the time that journalists really have to fight to keep journalism alive in this medium," Gonzalez says. "Across the board, reporters are expected to do more with less. So many are finding it difficult to find enough time to develop sources and enterprise stories. I think it is a threat to the future of television journalism."