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WLRN welcomes veteran South Florida journalist Sergio Bustos as next VP of News

Courtesy of Sergio Bustos
Bustos will join the newsroom as VP of News in early 2023.

An award-winning South Florida journalist with more than three decades of experience as a reporter, editor and news manager will join WLRN News early next year as its new Vice President for News.

Sergio R. Bustos will lead WLRN News as it works to establish itself as a top source for news and information in South Florida.

Born in Chile, Bustos is an immigrant, Latino and bilingual, reflecting much of South Florida’s diverse population.

After a two-decade reporting career, Bustos became an editor at the Miami Herald in 2005, and since has served as editor of POLITICO Florida and deputy opinion editor for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Most recently, Bustos was Enterprise/Politics Editor for the USA Today Network-Florida’s 18 newsrooms.

Bustos will work with emerging newsroom leaders Caitie Switalski Muñoz and Jessica Bakeman to guide WLRN News into the future. And the future of WLRN News is as bright as ever, with strong expansion plans.

“WLRN has ambitious plans to grow its audience throughout South Florida,” Bustos said. “I am greatly looking forward to joining the team in early January to build on the history of the great journalism WLRN is all about.”

“Sergio’s integrity, intelligence, energy and sense of humor will certainly be an asset in leading one of the best journalism enterprises in the nation," CEO of WLRN Public Media, John Labonia, said. “I look forward to working with Sergio and his team to continually deliver journalism of the highest quality that South Floridians have come to embrace, expect and deserve.”

Bustos is joining WLRN News at an exciting time: WLRN News is establishing its first investigations team. A new investigations editor will oversee hard-hitting and impactful journalism projects on the radio and online, including the work of Danny Rivero, host of the Detention by Design and Tallahassee Takeover podcasts, as well as WLRN’s new local government and accountability reporter Joshua Ceballos, formerly of the Miami New Times.

According to Bustos, the team will work “to uncover and explain the impact of public policies and those who seek to influence them.”

WLRN News is also preparing to relaunch Sundial on Dec. 12 after a short hiatus. Carlos Frías — a two-time James Beard Award winner and author who most recently distinguished himself as the Miami Herald’s food editor — will drive a re-energized and retooled midday program as its new host, in collaboration with lead producer Leslie Ovalle Atkinson and associate producer Elisa Baena.

Bustos will elevate the stellar work of WLRN News’ journalists, who were honored this year with a second-consecutive national Edward R. Murrow Award.

Following a 2021 win for overall excellence in large market radio, WLRN News was recognized this year for excellence in digital. WLRN served as the lead station on the statewide public media project, “Class of COVID-19: An Education Crisis for Florida’s Vulnerable Students,” edited by WLRN senior editor for news Jessica Bakeman.

Further, Bustos’ fundraising work with the local-journalism nonprofit Report for America will jumpstart efforts to secure resources for WLRN News’ ambitious plans. He was South regional manager for RFA, a non-profit that seeks to fill “news deserts” caused by the nationwide crisis in journalism.

Bustos is so embedded in the local journalism landscape in South Florida, he has already worked with several WLRN News staffers as an editor and mentor.

“It’s an understatement for me to say that it’s an honor to have the opportunity to work with an award-winning group of South Florida journalists at WLRN,” Bustos said. “It’s truly a privilege to join such a team of outstanding producers, reporters and writers.”

About Sergio

Born in Santiago, Chile, and raised in Annandale, Va., Bustos began his journalism career at The Washington Post — delivering the newspaper as a teenager in suburban northern Virginia.

After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University, Bustos went to work as a reporter for newspapers in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley — the News-Virginian in Waynesboro and Daily News-Leader in Staunton — before becoming a general assignment reporter at the Wilmington, Del., News-Journal.

He later joined The Philadelphia Inquirer as a reporter after his News-Journal editor recruited him to the big-city newspaper.

At The Inquirer, he won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in 1992 for a series of stories that revealed how courts and police routinely violated rights of Spanish-speaking farmworkers in southeastern Pennsylvania.

He also was among the lead reporters who exposed a scandal involving thousands of fraudulent absentee ballots that prompted a federal judge to nullify the election of a Democratic state senator. The Inquirer was later named as a finalist for the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for the stories.

He was one of 10 journalists nationwide to be awarded a John and Catherine MacArthur Foundation grant to study at the University of Southern California’s Center for International Journalists, where he traveled and wrote extensively about Mexico and Cuba in 1992-1993.

Bustos spent more than six years as a Washington correspondent for the former Gannett News Service. He covered the contentious national debate over immigration and border security following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, for Gannett’s southwestern newspapers, including The Arizona Republic.

He joined the Miami Herald as a first-time editor in 2005. He ran the teams covering police and courts, as well as Broward County, and he served as state and politics editor. He also was Sunday editor. In 2012, he supervised an award-winning investigation into a local congressman’s involvement in a campaign finance scandal, and oversaw coverage of several governor races and presidential elections. He co-authored a book, Miami's Criminal Past Uncovered, chronicling the city’s most notorious crimes, with Herald reporter Luisa Yanez in 2007.

Bustos returned to reporting in 2015 when he joined The Associated Press as a national political correspondent to cover the 2016 presidential campaign, assigned to cover candidates Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

He was later named editor of POLITICO Florida, where he edited a series of stories that led to the resignation of one of Florida’s most powerful state senators amid sexual harassment allegations from six women who were on the lawmaker’s staff or had lobbied him. He oversaw coverage of the Florida Legislature.

More recently, Bustos was a deputy opinion editor at the Sun-Sentinel and regional manager for Report for America, a national non-profit organization whose mission is to “strengthen our communities and our democracy through local journalism.” He mentored nearly 100 young journalists working for public radio, digital and print newsrooms in the South.

Before joining WLRN, he was Enterprise/Politics Editor for the USA Today Network-Florida’s 18 newsrooms. He coordinated coverage of the 2022 governor and U.S. Senate elections and worked with other newsrooms to cover Gov. Ron DeSantis’ controversial migrant relocation program and the devastating impact of Hurricane Ian.

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