Seven-time Emmy Award-winning author and TV journalist Jim DeFede was in Brooklyn this week to receive the prestigious Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for excellence in broadcast and digital journalism.
The honor was bestowed on DeFede for his work on the 2017 documentary “The Everglades: Where Politics, Money and Race Collide,” a one-hour documentary on the 2016 environmental disaster that hit the Treasure Coast and its relation to Everglades restoration.
The Bay Ridge-born-and-raised DeFede has quite an impressive resume. He has been the host of the Miami’s CBS4 News program “Facing South Florida,” since 2006.
The renowned news reporter and journalist has received a number of accolades over the past 16 years. He began his career with the Spokesman–Review in Spokane, Washington and his work has appeared in Talk, The New Republic, Newsday and Mother Jones, among others. He was also the metro columnist for the Miami Herald.
DeFede started work on “The Everglades” in 2016. “There was toxic blue-green algae that was coming out of Lake Okeechobee and spreading into communities on the east and west coast of Florida and we were trying to understand why this blue-green algae was causing medical problems and other problems,” DeFede told this paper.
DeFede described the toxic algae as a thick guacamole-like substance that had oozed into the lakes and river and eventually found its way into neighboring towns and cities. He never thought that exploring why this was occurring would turn into more than a year-long project and lead to an hour-long documentary.
In addition, DeFede covered the 2016 presidential campaign and secured one-on-one interviews with Donald Trump, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.
Among the many stories he has covered for his television program is “The Versace Murder: A South Beach Story,” on the 20th anniversary of the fashion designer’s murder by Andrew Cunanan.
In 2002, following the terrorist attacks on 9/11, DeFede wrote the best-selling book, “The Day the World Came to Town.” In February, 2002, he traveled to Gander, Newfoundland, the town which all international flights had been diverted to following the attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.
DeFede spent time meeting and interviewing the families who had warmly welcomed all the visitors during some of the darkest hours following the attacks. Thirty-eight jetliners bound for the United States were forced to land in Gander on September 11, 2001, due to the closing of United States airspace.
“I did my research, came back and wrote it and it was published in the fall of 2002 with the first anniversary of 9/11,” DeFede recalled. The book won him the 2003 Christopher Award.
It’s all quite impressive for a boy who was born and raised in Bay Ridge. DeFede attended St. Patrick School and Brooklyn Tech High School, from which he graduated in 1980.
His mother still lives on 99th Street in the same apartment he grew up in. He often comes home to visit his mother and sister, Daria Mayrose, her husband Tommy, and his nephews Connor and Christopher.
He fell in love with journalism at Colorado State University, where he began writing for the school paper. “I like reporting,” he recalled. “I thought it was interesting and I enjoyed that process so I decided to stay on that path.”
DeFede values his time spent in the borough. “Brooklyn is amazing because it always seems to change but it really doesn’t,” he explained. “I mean Bay Ridge in particular doesn’t really change from my perspective. It’s the same families that are still here and the same friends that are here. So it’s a nice touchstone for me. Whenever I come back, it’s the same and it’s nice to have those constants in your life.”
To view Jim DeFede’s du Pont award-winning documentary “The Everglades: Where Politics, Money and Race Collide,” go to: https://miami.cbslocal.com/the-everglades-where-politics-money-race-collide/.