News Director of the Year: Helga Silva, WSCV, Miami
Helga Silva has made WSCV Miami the premier news station in its market, which is no small accomplishment for a Spanish-language broadcaster. Since January, WSCV has been tops in Miami regardless of language for 11 consecutive months among adults 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54, Monday to Friday at 5, 6 and 11 p.m.
Manuel Martinez, president of Telemundo Station Group, said WSCV was a frequent ratings winner for years, but under Silva’s leadership, “now it’s every single newscast.”
“She just took it to the next level,” he said.
Silva, VP of news and content, has established herself with more than 30 years of journalistic integrity, crossing print, radio and TV. Her TV news career blossomed after stints at Telemundo’s WNJU and Univision’s WXTV in New York.
She has worked hard to change the mindset at Telemundo 51 since arriving in 2011. “It took easily two years to become the breaking-news machine we are today, where the reaction is automatic. It’s what we do,” Silva said.
Weather plays an integral part in Telemundo 51’s coverage, so Silva made a commitment to people who have degrees in the field and are bilingual. For experienced meteorologists lacking TV experience, Silva trains them in an unofficial three- or four-month program before putting them on air.
“We became the teaching station for meteorologists,” Silva said.
It was Hurricane Dorian that put the full resources of Telemundo 51 and NBC sister WTVJ on display this year. Dorian hugged Florida’s southern coast in early September. “It was a very scary moment,” Silva said.
Across 36 hours, WSCV sent reporters to more than a dozen locations. They had a presence from West Palm Beach to Orlando, and Cocoa Beach to Tampa-Fort Myers. Reporters also showed conditions in Mississippi and Puerto Rico.
WSCV didn’t end its coverage when the storm pulled away. In the aftermath of the Bahamas’ worst natural disaster, an anchor, reporter and photographer were dispatched to the islands for eight days to give viewers a first-hand look at the destruction.
Silva said Telemundo 51 separated itself from all the stations that did wall-to-wall coverage. “The audience involvement with this station is a testament to the fact that we have built a serious station that you can’t miss,” Silva said. “You have to watch our station if you want to be informed.”
Eye on Immigration
The year 2019 has been a vital one for Telemundo, which has covered the gubernatorial upheaval in Puerto Rico and the immigration battle across the U.S.’s southern border, which has involved children stuck in detention centers in South Florida. Telemundo 51 covered the protests in Puerto Rico and the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. “People were glued here,” Silva said.
A main reason for the popularity of Telemundo 51, Silva said, is the depth in today’s viewers, who range from monolingual to bilingual, and something she calls “the third generation,” who “grow up involved and listening to TV that speaks another language.”
Silva is proud that WSCV is recognized as a legacy station for Spanish-speaking families. Her staff is modern and tech savvy, with reporters able to use mobile devices and go live without heavy-duty equipment. “When there is a crisis, the household will turn to us,” Silva boasted. “That’s our strength.”
The station is always keeping a keen eye toward future story ideas. “[Silva] has the ability to look ahead and plan accordingly,” Martinez said.
Mentoring and molding young talent make Silva stand out. Her expert knowledge in the news business is tapped into by Telemundo stations across the country. “A lot of people come in through Miami just so that she can use her wisdom with them,” Martinez said.
WSCV and WTVJ work closely together, producing customized sound bites in both languages from newsmakers in Miami. Silva works closely with WTVJ news director Migdalia Figueroa.
“We’re able to combine two languages, two stations, to make the most of it,” Silva said.
Before TV, Silva wrote about politics for the Miami Herald. She said her newspaper experience helps her every day.
“That’s the best training any reporter can ever get,” Silva said. “In the heart of hearts, I am a reporter.”