At age 17, Gio Benitez wrote down his goal of becoming a network news correspondent. Today, Benitez is a co-anchor of “Good Morning America” Saturday and Sunday. As one of the 2023 SPJ convention keynote speakers, the award-winning journalist kicked off the session reflecting on his journey in the industry by providing budding journalists with a dose of positivity and inspiration.
“I want to bring a little joy because someone at home is sad right now. If they’re watching, I just want them to smile, and maybe that will turn around their day,” Benitez said.
He starts his day at 4:15 a.m. and believes that each story has value—a local news piece can offer tremendous insight into humanity. “If a story is about a spaceship, there’s a person inside it, a person behind it, a wife or a husband watching it. I try to make sure the work always speaks to that,” Benitez said.
The 37-year-old Cuban-American grew up in Miami, Florida, and witnessed first-hand the devastation that Andrew, a Category 5 hurricane, caused in 1992. Having a eureka moment, he was moved by the way broadcast journalism bonded the community after the storm.
As a catalyst for change, in June 2009, Benitez waited in line for the newest iPhone. By taking the initiative to do his own filming, he made history as the first reporter to shoot a TV segment using only an iPhone.
Throughout the years, he’s shown an open willingness to learn. Benitez is also the transportation correspondent for ABC News, covering cars, aviation, railroads, and spaceships. He received the position in 2020, one week before the coronavirus pandemic halted the travel industry in the United States.
“I was able to learn as airlines rebuilt themselves. I was growing with them and learning, too,” Benitez said.
Most recently, when he was on vacation in Maui, the island was facing a series of disastrous wildfires known as the Hawaii Firestorm. Prepared to report and always traveling with a microphone, he found a local wedding photographer to shoot his interviews. He reported live for GMA from the island.
GMA created an initiative called Maui Strong 808 where they report on recovery efforts and connect with locals on the aftermath.
“Natural disasters we cannot control, but we can control what happens after and come together as humans,” Benitez said.
He encourages young journalists to say yes to opportunities and to find gratitude during difficult moments in life.
“Whether stories of heartbreak or stories or joy, what makes this medium so special is that we can celebrate during the highs but come together and hug each other during the lows,” Benitez said.