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Journalism Safety Summit

Journalism Safety Summit presented by 90.7 WMFE and 89.5 WMFV

Join us for our half-day Journalism Safety Summit presented by 90.7 WMFE – bringing the Central Florida community together to examine the health and safety challenges journalists face.

The summit aims to help our community move beyond the tragic killing of a young reporter while on assignment in Orlando earlier this year by addressing multiple aspects of journalism safety. Discussions will address dangerous reporting assignments including natural disasters, civil unrest, and crime scenes, as well as mental health challenges and harassment in virtual and physical spaces. Conversations will also examine perceptions of journalism in society and how trust building on the part of news organizations can enhance journalists’ safety and service to the public alike.

Breakfast and lunch provided for attendees.

Attendees will receive free admission for the day to the Orange County Regional History Center.

Admission is free – open to journalists and the public – Registration is now closed

Friday, April 21, 2023
8:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Orange County Regional History Center
65 E Central Blvd, Orlando, FL 32801

Speakers include:

  • Nancy Alvarez, Anchor/Reporter, WESH-TV
  • Tim Brown, UCF Nicholson School of Communication and Media
  • Rick Brunson, UCF Nicholson School of Communication and Media
  • Michelle Guido, Director of Strategic Communications, Orange County Sheriff's Office
  • Naseem Miller, Senior Editor for Health at The Journalist’s Resource and former Orlando Sentinel health reporter
  • Allison McGinley, News Director, WKMG Channel 6
  • LaToya Dennis, News Director and Managing Editor, WMFE
  • Brendan Byrne, Space Reporter, WMFE and Host of “Are We There Yet?”
  • Desiree Stennett, Senior Reporter at the Orlando Sentinel

Session 1
Trauma-informed Journalism
Naseem Miller will discuss trauma-informed journalism, getting the story without causing harm, burn-out and self-care.

Session 2
Safety on the Job
Panelists from the journalism, law enforcement, and academic communities will discuss challenging questions about how to handle potentially dangerous reporting situations, as well as harassment, threats and intimidation in virtual and physical spaces.

Session 3
Perceptions of Journalism
Panelists from news, research, and community perspectives will discuss public perceptions of journalists and journalism and how trust building on the part of news organizations can enhance journalists’ safety and service to the public alike.


  • Where do I park?
    Park at the Library Garage at 112 East Central Boulevard, located just one block southeast of the History Center. Also, the Lymmo bus service provides free public transportation from many spots in downtown Orlando.
  • Do I have to be a journalist to attend this event?
    No. This event is open to all members of our community.
  • Is the History Center handicapped accessible?
    The History Center is handicapped accessible with elevators on every floor. Two handicapped parking spaces are available on the north side of the building on E. Washington Street.
  • How do I get there?
    Coming From Tampa/Attractions Take I-4 East Take South St. exit #82B Continue straight on Garland Ave. Turn Right on Central Blvd. and proceed to the Parking Garage across from the Library. Coming From Daytona Take I-4 West Take the Colonial Dr. exit #84/US 17-92/FL 50 Continue straight on Hughey St.

More Questions? Contact WMFE Community Collaboration DirectorRebecca Fernandez via emailwith any questions you may have.

Naseem Miller is the senior editor for health at The Journalist’s Resource, a project of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. She joined JR in 2021 after working as a health reporter in local newspapers and national medical trade publications for two decades. Immediately before joining JR, she was a senior health reporter at the Orlando Sentinel, where she was part of the team that was named a 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist for its coverage of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting. Miller co-started and administers the Journalists Covering Trauma Facebook group a year after the Pulse mass shooting and speaks to journalists about trauma, self-care and trauma-informed reporting.

Brendan Byrne covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration and contributes to NPR’s national programming covering all things space and science. Byrne was born and raised in Broward County. He moved to Central Florida in 2005 to attend the University of Central Florida. He began working at WMFE as a college intern where he discovered his love for public radio.

Dr. Tim Brown joined the Nicholson School of Communication and Media in Fall of 2004 after a career in television news. Previously he taught broadcast reporting and writing for three years at the University of Carolina. For 12 years, Brown was a reporter, anchor, and news manager at television stations around the southeast. He’s been honored by education organizations in Georgia and South Carolina for his reporting on education. At the Nicholson School, Dr. Brown teaches primarily broadcast reporting, but also courses in media and society.

Dr. Brown’s research interests include new media in journalism and in the classroom. His research has been published in Journalism and Mass Communication Educator and Electronic News, among others. His scholarship been honored by both the Broadcast Education Association and Association for Education in Journalism in Mass Communication.

LaToya Dennis joined WMFE as news director and managing editor in July of 2021. Throughout her career, she has worked to help diversify the public media landscape. She has also been at the forefront rethinking what news is and how to best deliver it to communities traditionally not well served by public radio. Before joining WMFE, Dennis spent 15-year stint as a general assignment reporter at WUWM in Milwaukee. She is a member of the board of directors for the Public Media Journalist Association and a member of the National Association of Black Journalists as well as a member of the Central Florida Association of Black Journalists. Dennis holds a bachelor’s degree and master's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.

Michelle Guido is the Director of Strategic Communications at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and a media specialist with more than 25 years of award-winning journalism across print, television and digital platforms. Before joining the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in 2018, she was the Orlando Police Department’s first civilian Public Information Officer and played an integral communications role in the 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub. Some of the methods utilized in the Pulse tragedy have been held up as best practices for law enforcement communicators.

In her previous career, she was Managing Editor of WESH 2 News in Orlando; Breaking News Editor at the Orlando Sentinel; and an editor and reporter at the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, where she was a member of the staff awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Loma Prieto Earthquake.

Allison McGinley is News Director at WKMG News 6 in Orlando, FL. This year she will celebrate her 29th year with the station. She began as an intern in 1993 and landed her first job as Weekend Assignment Editor in 1994 splitting her time between the full-time job and her studies at the University of Central Florida.

By the time Allison graduated with her BA in Radio & Television Communications in 1996, she was producing newscasts for WKMG. Allison would move from producer to Executive Producer and then to News Director in 2015.

During her first three and a half years as News Director, the WKMG team has re-branded its newscasts and endured intense periods of wall to wall coverage during times of crisis; the Pulse Massacre as well as Hurricanes Matthew and Irma. The team has succeeded in passing legislation to end texting while driving in Florida and to provide pay and benefits to law enforcement officers suffering from PTSD. Since the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing unemployment crisis, the WKMG Make Ends Meet team has succeeded in recovering more than $2 million dollars for Floridians due their unemployment pay. In 2022, McGinley’s team helped their community through two major hurricanes in under 6 weeks.

WKMG is the winner of two National Association of Broadcasters Service to America awards and multiple Regional Edward R. Murrow awards. McGinley currently serves as the Chair of the Radio Television Digital News Association’s Foundation. In 2022, McGinley was honored to be named to the UCF Nicholson School of Communications Hall of Fame.

Nancy Alvarez
After an award winning, 21-year career in broadcast journalism and a year working in central Florida’s nonprofit community, Nancy Alvarez is now a member of the WESH 2 News team as an anchor and reporter.

Nancy began her career in journalism covering the space program in Brevard County and has been at the center of every major story in the central Florida region. She has helped lead coverage of natural disasters, political events, the tragedy at the Pulse nightclub and most recently, the pandemic.

Nancy was one of the first reporters on the ground in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017. Over the course of multiple trips, her coverage of the storm’s impact both on the island and in Florida as storm evacuees moved to the mainland cemented her as a voice and advocate for the Hispanic community.

Nancy frequently lends her voice and platform as a public speaker for various nonprofit organizations and currently serves on the board of Junior Achievement and Hope Partnership. She is a bilingual, first generation Cuban American and lives in downtown Orlando with her husband and two children.

Judith Smelser is President & General Manager of WMFE & WMFV, public media serving Orlando and nine counties across Central Florida. She assumed that role in 2021, after more than two decades as an award-winning reporter, editor, and journalism consultant. Smelser began her career in Washington, DC, covering major national stories including the September 11th terrorist attacks and the contested 2000 Presidential election for numerous foreign and domestic news outlets. She worked in the WMFE newsroom from 2004-2011, first as a reporter and then as news director, leading coverage of multiple hurricanes, elections, in-depth series, and the end of the Space Shuttle program. Smelser later served as managing editor at Colorado Public Radio in Denver, leading coverage of the Aurora theater shooting and some of the most serious natural disasters to hit the state in decades. She moved back to Orlando in 2013 to launch Smelser Editing & Consulting, working with more than 30 public media organizations and over 200 journalists across the country. Smelser’s work has appeared on NPR, Marketplace, The World, Deutsche Welle, and many other national and international programs and networks.

Rick Brunson is senior instructor of journalism at UCF's Nicholson School of Communication and Media where he teaches digital, print and broadcast journalism. He also serves as adviser for NSCM’s chapter of the Radio Television Digital News Association. Rick recently celebrated 20 years as a journalism educator at UCF. He's also worked as a professional journalist for 35 years as a reporter, editor and writing coach at various news organizations in Central Florida, including the Orlando Sentinel and WFTV Channel 9. In 2022, Brunson and his students were recipients of one of journalism's highest honors, the national Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Digital Reporting for their class project, "The Road to Freedom Avenue: The Legacy of Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore,'' produced in partnership with WUCF-TV.

Felipe Sousa-Lazaballet (he/they) is the Executive Director of Hope Community Center, in Apopka.

In addition to managing day-to-day operations, leading 30 staff members, overseeing the management of seven programs, and increasing financial support for the 50-year-old organization; Felipe collaborates with community advocates, supporters, leaders, and organizations throughout Central Florida to drive the interconnectedness and synergy of Hope’s programs. His first-hand understanding of the immigrant experience along with his vision, passion, and power of networks have refreshed Hope's support, empowerment, and advocacy for immigrants and others who are tenacious and courageous in the face of all systems of oppression.

Prior to joining Hope, Felipe was the Inclusion, Diversity & Equity Sr Specialist for the Office of Multicultural Affairs at the City of Orlando. In this position, he proposed policy recommendations and programs; advocated for best practices on LGBTQ+ issues and immigrant and refugee affairs; and directed outreach to the Muslim, Brazilian, and Haitian communities to encourage greater participation in city services.

Felipe began his work with the City of Orlando as the Manager of Collaborative Partnerships where he served as the point of contact on behalf of the City with all issues focused on the long-term recovery from the Pulse tragedy. In this role, Felipe managed deliverables, removed barriers, and created qualifiers and quality standards for those who would be served by the Orlando United Assistance Center (OUAC), a program created to provide services to those directly impacted by the Pulse tragedy. The OUAC was made possible by a collaboration between the City of Orlando, Orange County, and Heart of Florida United Way. Felipe advocated and supported the various stakeholders of the mental health and social service systems, the LGBTQ+ community, and communities of color, all of whom are integral in the creation of a successful support system.

A proud immigrant from Brazil, Felipe came to Miami when he was only 14 years old. In 2010, he walked on the Trail of Dreams, a 1,500-mile walk from Miami to Washington, DC, to share the stories of immigrant youth and to push for administrative relief for millions of undocumented immigrants. He also worked with Presente.org, an organization seeking to solve some of the most pressing issues impacting the Latino community through communication strategies.

A graduate of Miami-Dade College with an Associate of Arts in International Relations and a bachelor's degree in Business Studies with a Minor in Economics from St. Thomas University, Felipe was also Co-Director of GetEQUAL, a national social justice LGBTQ+ organization; served as the Deputy Managing Director at United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth network in the country; and worked at ThoughtWorks, a multinational software company, working at the Office of Social Change Initiatives as the Director of Strategic Partnerships.

Felipe has a long track record of creating strategic and collaborative partnerships in philanthropy, government, private, and the non-profit sectors. His lived experience as an undocumented immigrant and LGBTQ+ person has been the guiding light in his advocacy for equity. He believes those most impacted by issues should be at the forefront of their own struggle for liberation, which includes changing unjust laws, building solidarity movements, and providing life-saving services. Most importantly, he believes in the power of love.

Felipe is happily married to Luis Sousa-Lazaballet (he/him) and together they have a beautiful puppy, Cosito.

He was also one of the co-chairs for Orlando’s WorldPride 2026 bid, and he is the chair of the One Orlando Alliance board of director and on the board of Directors of the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC).

Desiree Stennett is a senior reporter at the Orlando Sentinel. She covers issues related to the intersections of race with politics, religion, housing, policing and other aspects of life in Central Florida and across the state. Before rejoining the Orlando Sentinel staff in 2020, she helped cover the social justice protests that erupted in Memphis following the death of George Floyd. She has also covered breaking news, criminal justice and policing and economic development and business. In her career, she has assisted with Trayvon Martin coverage in Orlando, examined how eviction and low housing quality devastates Black families and, most recently, uncovered the history of how Orange County Public Schools came to own hundreds of acres of land in Eatonville. That history, along with the outcry from residents, stopped a $14 million land sale that residents felt would have destroyed the oldest Black town in America. She earned her bachelor's degree in journalism at Florida A&M University and has worked for several news organizations in Florida and Tennessee.