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From Human Interest Stories to Natural Disasters, SC&I Alum and WFTV Journalist Stresses the Importance of Curiosity

Jorge Estevez JMS/COM ’97 discusses his vast journalism career and what motivates his reporting.

Emmy-award winning journalist and School of Communication and Information (SC&I) alumnus Jorge Estevez knows the value of inspiration and a truly inquisitive mind. Graduating in 1997 with a dual major in Journalism and Media Studies and Communication, Estevez’ feels deeply motivated by serving the community with accurate information despite the rapid-fire pace of today’s news cycle. We recently spoke to him about his most memorable stories and the need for curiosity in aspiring journalists.

How did your education at SC&I prepare you for your career in journalism?

SC&I prepared me for a career in journalism on so many levels. Not only was I able to study the actual profession of journalism, I was also able to understand the power of communication through my secondary degree. On one side you had the mechanics of journalism, whether it be print, radio, or television, where I was able to begin to understand the profession. On the other side, with a degree in communication,  I was able to examine the art of getting my message across. A communication degree helped me learn more about my audience and how to reach them. 

You previously worked as a reporter and anchor in New York City, which includes an Emmy nomination. Is there a particular story you worked on during that time that stands out to you?

During my time in New York City, which was my first job at News 12 the Bronx. I was able to really start to get a hold of what my career would become. The story that really stands out the most for me happens to be my first Emmy nomination. It was a story I did about a 12-year-old kid who was a cancer survivor. He received a bone marrow transplant that changed his life, but he was very sick for much of his childhood. He reflected on those years in a book that he wrote for other kids who were dealing with cancer. It was so touching and emotional that it is something I will never forget. I remember playing basketball with him in his backyard and thinking how positive and uplifting his spirit wise and how it was going to help so many people.

Your journalism career in Florida has earned you several Emmys, and you’ve covered a wide range of stories including several national disasters. How do you feel the media can provide a positive impact during events that carry such intense ramifications?

During my time in Florida, so far, I’ve received seven Emmy awards and several other nominations. The awards are great, but getting the message out is what really matters. Even stories that aren’t Emmy-winning can be the most influential and powerful stories to tell. When dealing with natural disasters, you really get a sense of how much people rely on the media. Whether it be social media or our website WFTV.com, people really look to us during those moments to help them decide for all the information that’s out there for them at a critical time. When a hurricane is coming here to Florida, our viewership spikes on all of our platforms because people are craving information to keep their family safe. It is an honor to be a resource for community during those times.

Journalism has dramatically changed over the years, especially on a local level. How do you think technology, social media, etc. has affected the journalism and media industries locally and nationally?

What technology has done to journalism and mass media is a twofold affect. On one hand, people are becoming their own editor. When I say that - I mean people are being able to choose how they get their news and what kind of news they get. They are becoming choosier, which is fantastic. They are becoming their own new directors and reporters and writers. However, because of that people are relying a little bit less on the traditional forms of newscasts at 5:00 p.m. or 11:00 p.m. and they’re getting the news whenever they want and wherever they want. That’s good for them, but it places an extra added responsibility on us in that we need to constantly be taking that consumer into consideration when we disseminate the news. We have to continuously update it on a minute-by-minute basis. We can’t just rely on the 5:00 p.m. update. We need to know that every minute someone is looking for the newest and latest information and it is our responsibility to make sure that we have that on all of our platforms. 

Since you have such strong ties to the Central Florida community, how does that motivate your reporting?

I feel that we can report on any story anywhere. Journalists travel internationally to report on all sorts of stories, but I do find when you’re reporting on stories that impact your own neighborhood, you bring a certain level of compassion and understanding that others cannot. When you live somewhere and when you’re reporting affects the people in your community you take it more to heart. You feel even more responsible for accurately portraying your community. Accuracy, of course, is something you are always concerned with, but I feel when it’s your own neighborhood or your child’s school or about your local politician, you become more invested in the actual story.

What advice would you give current students and recent graduates seeking to pursue a career in journalism?

The advice I would give to other people in journalism or communication would be to continue to expand their curiosity. People are so curious nowadays about so many things, and they can find information wherever they want. You need to increase your level of curiosity so you can stay ahead of that curve. You need to be able to ask the questions first and have that information in the back of your pocket so you can use it when you need to. Reading and keeping up to date with information is crucial.

For more information on SC&I’s Journalism and Media Studies major, click here

For more information on SC&I’s Communication major, click here

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