On Tuesday, a group of Miami Herald reporters and legal professionals discussed the Jeffrey Epstein case, the importance of investigative journalism and the impacts of sex trafficking during a set of panels in Coral Gables.
Additionally, Aminda Marqués Gonzáles, the executive editor and publisher of the paper, announced a push for a $1.5 million investigative journalism fund to dramatically increase the size and reach of the Herald’s work. The fund, which is being done in partnership with The Miami Foundation, will be partly funded by community donations.
The panels were headlined by Miami Herald reporter Julie K. Brown, best known for covering the Epstein case. Panelists also included photographer and videographer Emily Michot, CHILD USA CEO Marci Hamilton, No More Tears President Somy Ali and was moderated by Miami Herald Editorial Page Editor Nancy Ancrum.
The discussion was split into two panels. The first one consisted of Brown, Michot and Ancrum, and focused on the reporting of the Epstein investigation.
During this conversation, Brown said her desire was to write about the issue differently than had been done in the past.
“This story has been told from a very almost salacious point of view in the past and I don’t want to do that,” said Brown. “I want to talk about the breakdown of the criminal justice system and what went wrong.”
Michot added that while Brown’s reporting was powerful, the victims’ having the courage to come forward on video allowed the investigation to be as successful as it was.
“I didn’t have to do too much, you know, I think they told the story and they made the impact,” said Michot. “So thank goodness you know, we’ve moved into that medium because it’s so important to hear it from themselves.”
Prior to the start of the event, Casey Frank, a senior editor in charge of investigations and enterprise at the paper, praised the journalists’ work.
“Julie Brown and Emily Michot’s Epstein coverage was invaluable in reminding people — in South Florida and around the country — that victims of sexual abuse should never be shut out of the process by prosecutors,” he said. “That’s exactly what happened a decade ago. It caused incalculable harm to the young women who were victimized and allowed a dangerous man to essentially walk free.”
In the second panel, Brown and Ancrum were joined by Hamilton and Ali to talk about the impacts of sex trafficking.
Hamilton noted that children are often helpless in these kinds of situations.
“They get sexually abused, they don’t understand it and usually, they’re threatened and usually, especially in the case of the Epstein victims, they don’t have any outlet,” she said. “They don’t have any way of doing anything about it.”
Attendee Diane Ashley said that she feels like child sex trafficking is an issue that should be talked about more.
“I just think it’s something that needs to be known and talked about and resolved at some point, all the time,” she said.
Michelle Woodward said she came because she is a big fan of Brown’s.
“I find Julie Brown really inspiring as a journalist,” said Woodward. “I was really moved by the Epstein story. I think just having a discussion with different voices in the community will leave people with a different mindset.”
Donations to the Herald investigative fund can be made at hrld.us/supportjournalism.