John Zarrella was CNN’s Miami correspondent, named to this position when the Miami bureau was established in December 1983. Zarrella was responsible for CNN’s coverage of news in Florida, Central and South America and the Caribbean. Since joining CNN, he covered every major hurricane to hit Florida and the Gulf Coast, most recently Katrina and Rita; the Pope’s visit to Cuba; the eruption of the Montserrat volcano and the Cuban and Haitian refugee crises.
Zarrella was also a principal correspondent for CNN’s coverage of the U.S. space program, covering such events such as John Glenn’s 1998 return to space, the Mars Pathfinder mission and numerous space shuttle launches. Zarrella was the CNN network correspondent on site when the 1986 Challenger shuttle disaster occurred. In 2011, Zarrella covered the final flights of the Space Shuttle program.
He also served as a correspondent on major news events for the network, including Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier return to Haiti, Air France crash in Brazil and the Honduras Coup in 2011, the network’s Peabody Award winning coverage of the Gulf Oil Spill in 2010, the Terri Schiavo controversy in Florida, the 2002 Elian Gonzalez story in Miami, the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the 1985 hijacking of TWA flight 847 in Beirut, the trial of Manuel Noriega and the Mexico City earthquake in 1985.
Zarrella joined CNN in November 1981 as executive producer at CNN world headquarters in Atlanta where he was responsible for the overall look and content of all hard newscasts.
Earlier, Zarrella served as executive producer at WJTV-TV in Miami and WBAL-TV in Baltimore. While working for WBAL-TV, the station was awarded an Edward R. Murrow Award for outstanding news operation. Zarrella also spent four years at WXIA-TV in Atlanta, serving in a variety of positions, culminating with his appointment as senior producer. At WXIA, he won two Emmy awards, including one for his production of a public affairs series. Before joining WXIA, Zarrella was executive producer for WPEC-TV in West Palm Beach, Fla., and weekend producer and assignment editor for WPLG-TV in Miami.
Zarrella has been honored numerous times for his reporting contributions. In 2003, the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association gave him its prestigious Media Award for “outstanding efforts to inform the public of the problem of hurricanes and the issues faced by emergency managers.” In 2002, the National Hurricane Conference awarded him its Outstanding Achievement Award for his work on “Hurricane: When the Big One Hits.” The committee said the documentary set “a new standard for the coverage of science of hurricanes and the problems related to evacuations, sheltering and risk assessments.”
Zarrella earned a bachelor’s degree in English from St. Thomas University, formerly Biscayne College, where he helped establish the college’s journalism program.
32 years with CNN.
Nov. 1981 to Jan. 2014
1981 to 1983
Executive Producer of morning newscast. Responsible for developing and launching Daybreak a 6am to 9am all news program.
1983 to 2014:
Launched CNN’s Miami Bureau in Nov. 1983. Was bureau’s first Bureau Chief and Correspondent. Correspondent from 1983 t0 2014.
Nearly every Hurricane to strike the U.S. in past 35 years. Including: Andrew, Katrina, Rita, Wilma, Hugo, Gloria, Ike, Charlie, Dennis, David, Irene, Isabel.
75 space shuttle launches. Mission coverage including: Hubble Repair, Space Station Construction, John Glenn’s flight. Space Program as a correspondent for 30 years. Challenger and Columbia accidents. Pathfinder landing on Mars.
Curiosity landing on Mars.
Egypt: Spent four months in Egypt for CNN in 1985 as interim Bureau Chief.
Pope John Paul’s visit to Cuba. The Rafters crisis in 1994. Jimmy Carter’s trip.
Mexico City Earthquake in 1985. Major League Baseball Strike, Superbowls, The Gulf War. Mine Disasters, Wildfires, Environment, Wildlife. TWA hijacking in the middle east.
Local News Producer and Executive Producer from 1976 to 1981.
Peabody for Gulf Oil Spill. Emmy for Oklahoma City bombing. Two National Hurricane conference media awards for coverage. Emmy for Katrina coverage. 2009 Media award from the natl space club Huntsville, 2013 Media award from the National Space Club Florida.
Numerous Astronaut Hall of Fame Inductions. Apollo Anniversaries, Atlantis Grand Opening events at Kennedy Space Center. The Rotary RNASA awards in Houston. Speaks regularly at hurricane conferences.
Wrote and reported CNN documentaries: “ Hurricane: When the Big One Hits.” “Beyond Atlantis”