Hispanic TV Summit: ABC's Gio Benitez Makes a Career From a Fascination with TV

Gio Benitez of ABC News
ABC News correspondent Gio Benitez will discuss how TV news reflects Hispanic culture during an opening keynote. (Image credit: ABC/Lorenzo Bevilaqua)

ABC News correspondent Gio Benitez’s fascination with television news began during Hurricane Andrew.

“I remember I was 7 years old and I saw Hurricane Andrew moving through the community and I was hiding under the table because I was so scared,” Benitez, who grew up in Miami, said. “But I was realizing right away that everyone was so reliant on television news for information.”

Thirty years later, Benitez now works for ABC News as transportation correspondent, contributing stories to all ABC News platforms and programs, which include Good Morning America, ABC World News Tonight, Nightline, 20/20, ABC News Radio and streaming network ABC News Live. He joined ABC in 2013, working as a general assignment correspondent before taking on transportation in 2020.

Benitez will deliver the opening keynote at September 14’s 20th anniversary Hispanic Television Summit, a one-day conference exploring how the industry is embracing Hispanic culture. It’s part of NYC Television Week, sponsored by B+C Multichannel News parent Future. The keynote, “How Network News Embraces Hispanic Culture,” will be moderated by Joe Schramm.

Benitez got his start at CBS station WFOR Miami. He was an Emma L. Bowen Foundation scholar with the work-study fellowship running from his senior year of high school to his graduation from Florida International University. WFOR hired him as an investigative producer out of college.

He fell into reporting at WFOR because he lost his iPhone while on vacation. While picking up the iPhone 3GS, Benitez’s boss Adrienne Roark (now president of CBS Stations) suggested he shoot a story on it.

“I go back to the station, I produce the story, I edit the story, and it gets on in our 5:30 news desk and it just goes absolutely crazy all over the internet,” Benitez said. “They were writing about us in China, South America, because we inadvertently had produced the very first piece for television, shot entirely with a phone.”

Benitez has been on-air ever since, winning three national and two regional Emmy Awards so far. He also recently had the chance to guest co-host GMA.

“It truly feels like a dream and an honor to be able to sit in that chair and have this conversation with America in the morning,” said Benitez, who has long been a fan of morning news, calling it “appointment viewing” for him growing up.

Benitez, whose parents came to the United States from Cuba when they were young, realized how important growing up in Miami was while covering the story of Arizona mom Yanira Maldonado for ABC News. Maldonado was being held in a Mexican jail accused of trafficking drugs and Benitez was able to go to Mexico and look at the evidence, which ultimately did not support the accusation against Maldonado.

“I reported that on TV, and I then was able to go on with one of our partners, Univision, and I was able to, in Spanish, report that same news and what I had seen on Noticiero Univision,” he said. “And that’s when I really saw the impact of growing up in a community like Miami. And that’s obviously something I didn’t realize while I was there. But afterwards I just thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, what an incredible lesson and opportunity that was to grow up there.’”

‘Oh, My Gosh’ Moments

Benitez has had other “oh, my gosh” moments throughout his career. Early on at ABC, he appeared on-screen with Diane Sawyer when she was still anchoring World News. “It was just mind-blowing for me as a young correspondent,” he said.

Broadcast legends Sawyer, David Muir and Robin Roberts were some of the reasons he was “obsessed with ABC News” in college. “I thought that they just did such incredible work telling these stories with heart and compassion,” he said.

Benitez attributes his success to that same compassion he saw in Sawyer, Muir and Roberts. “I do not treat interviews like interviews,” he said. “I try to treat them, interview subjects, as human beings, always, first and foremost. And I’ve done that since I was in local news all the way through now.”

Benitez, who now splits his time between New York and Washington, D.C., said he hopes Hispanic TV Summit attendees will see his story as part of their story.

“I hope that people realize that there is so much that we have done,” he said. “There’s so much that we can continue to do. But I hope that they are also inspired to keep going on whatever their journey is.” ▪️

Jessika Walsten

Jessika is an analyst for TVREV and Fabric Media. She previously served in various roles at Broadcasting + Cable, Multichannel News and NextTV, working with the brands since 2013. A graduate of USC Annenberg, Jessika has edited and reported on a variety of subjects in the media and entertainment space, including profiles on industry leaders and breaking news.