The senior investigative editor of the Miami Herald who was involved with the Jeffrey Epstein story visited Florida Tech last Wednesday, Feb. 19 to talk about how local journalism can make a difference.
Casey Frank presented to Florida Tech students, staff and faculty on his work regarding numerous investigations over his 40 years at the Herald, particularly the Epstein case.
“Perversion of Justice” is the Herald’s collection of articles from last November through December that highlights the history, charges, reinvestigation and more on Epstein and his long-time involvement with sexually assaulting minors in his Miami residence.
Frank explained how the story was buried 10 years ago, and how it is unlikely for news organizations to want to “rehash” a story from that far back. However, he emphasized how Herald reporters, Julie Brown and Emily Michot, saw the value within the story that needed to be told.
“We wanted to speak truth to power,” Frank said.
By finding the names of lawyers, schools and victims, the Herald reached out to find the truth on the many injustices by Epstein.
Reporters brought attention to Epstein’s victims in Nov. of 2018, which subsequently led to Epstein’s arrest for sex trafficking in July of 2019. Now, the Herald is still providing coverage on the story even after Epstein’s death in August.
Frank mentioned that he had considered retiring soon, but the Epstein story broke and re-invigorated his love and drive for local reporting.
He then once again stressed how local journalism is important, as local news sources can dig deeper into a story than national media.
Amy Laakman, a communications instructor who attended the keynote, agreed with Frank and voiced her own opinions on the situation.
“I was interested in how you cover something so controversial,” Laakman said, “We’re in a situation where rich and powerful men can buy themselves out of these situations.”
Laakman also stressed how local journalism makes a difference and gets people involved and informed. “You owe it to yourself to be an informed citizen on different points of view,” Laakman said. “Then if you feel informed enough, then you can actually go out and make a change.”
Being informed of the Epstein case for the first time was Pei-An Hsia, a Florida Tech masters student in global strategic communication. She came to the event because she wanted to learn more about free speech week.
“I’m impressed with how they got the investigation reopened,” Hsia said. “If it weren’t for the press, then no one would’ve heard of this.”
She found it interesting how willing the reporters were when it came to investigating Epstein, a man who had such powerful connections with royalty and presidents.
“I appreciate their efforts,” Hsia said.
The story is not yet over. Frank pointed out about Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s financer, that “she’s still out there.”
He said that the story will continue as Maxwell is under investigation.