Gerardo Reyes, head of Univision News’ investigative unit, was awarded the Premio Nacional de Periodismo Simón Bolívar last week in recognition of his life’s work. The award is the highest recognition that a journalist can receive in Colombia and one of the most important awards for Spanish-language journalism.
“I am grateful to the jury for recognizing a journalist who despite not living in his country, misses it and carries it with him in everything he does," Reyes said after the award ceremony in Bogota.
"I am also grateful to my colleagues who worked with me at Univision, El Tiempo, El Nuevo Herald and The Miami Herald, on the stories that are cited in this award. I would also like to thank Daniel Coronell for his unconditional support for Univision Investiga and Isaac Lee for bringing me to Univision. I also want to give special thanks to my colleagues Margarita Rabin and Tomás Ocaña who taught me how to work in television,” he added.
Drug trafficking and corruption
Reyes is an investigative reporter with over 30 years of experience. His work has focused on corruption, drug trafficking and the concentration of wealth in Latin America. He studied law and began his journalistic career as a member of the Investigative Unit of El Tiempo in Colombia. While there, Reyes uncovered major cases of corruption with a wide impact. In 1988 Reyes was hired by El Nuevo Herald in Miami. At El Nuevo Herald, Reyes covered some of the largest political and financial corruption scandals in the Latin American region, which also had ramifications in the United States. He also published articles on the challenges of Latin American communities in Miami. Reyes is one of the most experienced investigative journalists in the United States on all issues related to drug trafficking, which has not only been reflected in articles but also in books, television series and documentaries.
During his time at El Nuevo Herald he received the best press article award from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists for an investigation into the death of a patient at the hands of a negligent cosmetic surgeon in Miami. In 1998, he participated in the Miami Herald team that received the Pulitzer Prize for the best investigation, a series that denounced several forms of corruption in an electoral process in Miami. For his coverage of Latin America and his impact in the United States, he was recognized in 2004 with the María Moors Cabot, Columbia University award. In 2007 he received the Planet of Journalism Award for his book Our Man in the DEA.
Univision News launched its investigative unit in 2010. Led by Reyes, the unit has been recognized with the most prestigious TV and digital journalism awards, including the Peabody Award in 2012 for the special “Fast and Furious special: Armando the Enemy”, an investigation into the deadly impact of a failed U.S. covert arms trafficking operation into to Mexico. The investigation was also recognized by the National Association of Investigative Journalists of the United States (IRE).
In 2013 Univision’s investigative unit received an Emmy in the best investigative report category for its special: ‘El Chapo Guzmán, the eternal fugitive’.
In 2015, Reyes was recognized with the Ortega y Gasset award, one of the most prestigious in the Spanish-speaking world, for an extensive digital project that exposed how drug trafficking has taken over the mining business in Latin America (Los Nuevos Narcotesoros). That same investigation was nominated for an Emmy in 2015.
Most recently, Reyes worked on the story ‘Narcosubmarinos, a trip to the bottom of the sea’, in which his team exposes how drugs moves from Latin America to the United States using submarines. Reyes gained exclusive access to places in the middle of the jungle where drug cartels fabricate their narco-submarines.
Reyes is the author of the Investigative Journalism Manual, Trillas Publishing, 1996; Made in Miami: the lives of narcos, saints, seducers, caudillos and soplones (Editorial Planeta); Don Julio Mario: unauthorized biography of the richest and most influential man in Colombia (Editions B, 2003 and Random House Mandadori, 2011); Our Man in the DEA: the story of a photographer who negotiated the freedom of more than a hundred drug dealers in the United States, (Planeta, 2007); Flight 495: the ignored tragedy of the first air hijacking in the United States (Random House, 2015).
He is co-author and editor of Los Dueños de América Latina: how the wealthiest and most influential people in the region amassed their fortunes (Editions B, 2003) and Who to vote for?: An evaluation guide prepared by investigative journalists so that you know: who do you vote for (The Black Sheep, 1982).
Some of his chronicles were selected for the Anthology of Great Colombian Chronicles, by Daniel Samper (Aguilar, 2004); The Passion of Counting (Editorial Universidad de Antioquia, 2009) and 'Years of Fire, great reports of the last decade' (Planet-Week 2001).
Reyes has been editorial advisor to Semana, Soho, Gatopardo and Poder magazines. He was a member of the jury that recognizes the best investigative journalism in the Americas with an award by Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS) and is a regular trainer and speaker at investigative journalism conferences and workshops in Latin America and Europe.