Elaine Rivera, 54, 'true street reporter with a heart,' dies

Elaine Rivera, 54, of the Bronx. She was

Elaine Rivera, 54, of the Bronx. She was at New York Newsday from 1986 through 1995 and later worked for Time Magazine and WNYC, the city’s public radio station. She had been teaching at Lehman College in the Bronx. (July 5, 1987) (Credit: Mark Hinojosa)

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Longtime reporter Elaine Rivera, described by one colleague as a "true street reporter with a heart," who worked at several New York news organizations, died Saturday at her home in the Bronx, her friends said.

Rivera, 54, had been on leave from her job as a lecturer on journalism at Lehman College in the Bronx while she underwent treatment for liver disease, her friends said.

"She was passionate, passionate, passionate," said Bob Liff, a political consultant who was a reporter and colleague of Rivera's at New York Newsday. "She had this incredible sense of injustice, whether it was exposing racism or plugging in the coffee pot. She was just irrepressible."

Tom Curran, a Newsday deputy metro editor who worked with Rivera in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said, "She had absolutely no guile. What you saw was what you got. And she was afraid of no one."

Rivera was born in Cleveland to a family she sometimes likened to television's "Brady Bunch," said her friend and CNN senior producer Rose Marie Arce. "It was a very loving family: three boys, three girls, one house, one bathroom," Arce said.

Rivera got her bachelor's degree in journalism from Kent State University in 1981 and went to work for the Akron Beacon Journal. Rivera, whose family had Puerto Rican roots, left the Akron paper for an internship at the Hispanic Link News Service.

She went on to a succession of jobs at the Washington Times, New York Newsday, Time Magazine, El Diario-La Presna, The Washington Post and WNYC-Radio, according to her resume.

During her time at Newsday, from 1986 through 1995, she covered a broad range of issues and worked on projects about immigration and urban issues. She was working on a series about Latinos in New York when New York Newsday ceased publication in 1995.

She worked at WNYC as an on-air reporter from 2006 to 2009, covering politics and economic development. She documented the local impact of the national recession on the station's "Main Street NYC" project, and wrote about how business along 161st Street in the Bronx did not profit from the renovation of Yankee Stadium.

"A true street reporter with a heart," WNYC colleague Beth Fertig said in a comment on the station's website.

Rivera was a lifetime member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

Her body was being flown to her family in Cleveland for burial, and there will be a memorial service in New York next month, Arce said.

Rivera is survived by her father, Juan; brothers Alvin, Randy and Ronnie, and a sister, Marisel, all of Cleveland. Her mother, Aida, is deceased, as is her sister Joyce.

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