Journalism grad shares experience covering Hurricane Irma

Ashley Lapadula, a bilingual journalist for Univision 23, was one of several FIU journalism alumni who covered Hurricane Irma for local news outlets.

By Sarah Hernandez

As Hurricane Irma drew near and South Florida prepared to either weather the storm or find safer accommodations, a few FIU journalism alumni sprang into action, covering the storm from every angle.

From pre- or post-storm coverage to broadcasting live from the eye of the storm, these brave Panther journalists put themselves in harm’s way to give viewers valuable information in real time.

One of them was Ashley Lapadula, a bilingual journalist for Univision 23, who graduated with her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2013 and her master’s degree in Spanish language journalism in 2015.

She was able to give us some insight about the steps she took to attain her career as well as her experiences while reporting during Hurricane Irma.

What is your current position and how did FIU help you attain this career?

As a bilingual journalist, I currently work at Univision 23 Local Media in Miami, FL, where I have been a reporter and producer for the station for the last four years.

During my time as an undergraduate student, I was involved in various internships with TV stations like Univision and CBS. I also took part in a yearlong joint partnership between Telemundo Network and FIU-SJMC as an intern for their entertainment morning show.

My first internship was acquired after I visited the SJMC advisors department. I was informed of an open opportunity to intern with Univision 23, and after I applied and was accepted, I began my first hands-on experience with a television station. This opportunity opened doors for me and ultimately led me to reconnect, after I graduated, with many of the managers and directors that I met during my time there. 

How did you feel while reporting during Hurricane Irma and what did you learn from this experience?

Our team at Univision 23 began continuous coverage in anticipation of Hurricane Irma, which meant that we were on air for 24 hours with no commercial breaks prior, during and after the storm.

As a reporter, my duty was to inform the community from various locations in South Florida alongside my cameraman. As I stood in front of the camera ready to go live on various occasions, I realized how fulfilling my job is.

Whether I was at the Emergency Management Center at 1 a.m. surrounded by various media professionals or standing inches away from the ocean at Las Olas Boulevard in Ft. Lauderdale at 2 a.m. as the hurricane threatened our coastline, I was eager to share the latest news to our audience.

You have to be passionate in this career and truly love what you do. Each and every time I do a story, I both learn and grow from the experience. On this particular occasion, I learned how essential social media was to our community as we were constantly posting new shelters for those who needed to urgently evacuate. We also updated the community within seconds through our social media handles and saw the comments and concerns from people in the community.

What are your plans for the near future?

I plan to continue informing the community as a news reporter on TV and through my social media platforms. I find it fulfilling to have been nominated for two Emmy Awards for past stories I have worked on and always strive to produce stories of that caliber that inform, educate or start a conversation.

I enjoy giving back to the community and participate every chance I get in important non-profit organizations. I also hope to publish a book in the future. If you have a story idea, tweet me at @AshleyTV23!