The world of journalism in South Florida and beyond is in mourning as the iconic investigative reporter, Carmel Cafiero, passed away, leaving behind a legacy that will forever define the highest standards of journalistic integrity and commitment to the truth. With an illustrious 43-year career at WSVN-TV, Carmel Cafiero became a trailblazer, breaking both stories and ceilings as she fearlessly pursued the truth, exposed wrongdoing, and held those in power accountable.
Carmel Cafiero’s journey into journalism began with radio, but her determination to make a difference led her to the world of television. It was at WAFB-TV in Baton Rouge where she first made waves, becoming the first woman to anchor an evening newscast in the state. In 1973, she joined Channel 7, then known as WCKT, as a general assignment reporter. At the time, newsrooms were overwhelmingly male-dominated, making Carmel Cafiero the station’s first female journalist. Not only did she break stories, but she shattered glass ceilings, paving the way for future generations of female journalists.
Her commitment to informing the public and safeguarding them from harm was unwavering. She once said, “The thing that I find rewarding about my work is informing people, and if by informing people we can avoid one person from being hurt or taken in, then it’s a success.” This dedication to the public interest was evident in her investigative work.
Carmel Cafiero was unafraid to go undercover to expose the truth, even if it meant putting herself in danger. In one of her early groundbreaking stories, she wore a wig to infiltrate unlicensed doctors who were performing abortions and clinic workers who deceived women about their pregnancy status. Her investigation exposed a shocking deception that put women’s lives at risk.
Throughout her career, Carmel Cafiero’s investigative reporting continued to make a profound impact. She uncovered the presence of defective Chinese drywall in South Florida homes, exposing the danger it posed to residents. Her work shed light on the risks associated with pet jerky treats from China, linked to the tragic deaths of dogs across the nation. She even uncovered the sale of used mattresses as new, revealing shocking hygiene issues and deception.
One of her most significant achievements was her groundbreaking reporting on the opioid crisis in 2008, with Broward County at its epicenter. Her relentless pursuit of the truth revealed the alarming flow of highly addictive prescription painkillers, leading to overdoses and deaths. Her confrontations with clinic operators and doctors exposed the magnitude of the problem, leading to prosecutions and policy changes. Her work not only won awards, including the prestigious Alfred I. duPont–Columbia University Award, but it also saved lives and influenced changes in the law, such as the implementation of the prescription drug monitoring program.
Carmel Cafiero’s dedication extended beyond investigative reporting; she was a champion for the voiceless and a force to be reckoned with when it came to holding public officials accountable. She fearlessly confronted individuals who tried to evade the law, demanded answers from those who held power, and brought their actions into the spotlight for public scrutiny.
Her reach as a journalist was not limited to South Florida; it extended to international stories of significance. She tracked down former Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Gersten in Australia and interviewed Francesco Schettino, the captain of one of the worst cruise ship disasters in history, off the coast of Italy. Her tenacity and commitment to uncovering the truth transcended geographic boundaries.
Carmel Cafiero’s impact extended to humanitarian causes as well. She highlighted the plight of young teens overdosing outside a Pompano Beach nightclub, shedding light on the dangers and confronting the club’s owner. Her compassionate reporting played a role in rallying the community to help those in need, exemplifying her dedication to making a positive difference in people’s lives.
Throughout her remarkable 43-year career, Carmel Cafiero consistently asked tough questions and relentlessly pursued the truth, leaving an indelible mark on South Florida journalism. Her legacy as a fearless investigative journalist will serve as an inspiration for generations to come, reminding us all of the importance of holding those in power accountable and seeking the truth, no matter the obstacles.
Carmel Cafiero is survived by her husband Bob, her daughter Courtney, and her two granddaughters Mariah and Melanie. Her family, colleagues, and the journalism community at large will forever remember her as a pioneering force in the field, a relentless truth-seeker, and a compassionate advocate for those in need. Her impact on journalism and the lives she touched will continue to resonate for years to come.