Mercader worked for the network for over 30 years, beginning in 1987 via the company’s page program. Eventually, she made the jump into breaking news before moving on to the position of director of talent strategy, where she expanded staff diversity in the news division. Her diversity efforts were achieved by working with various community organizations, including the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Black Journalists, and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.
Susan Zirinsky, CBS News president and senior executive producer, spoke of Mercader’s journalistic talent and “indomitable spirit” in a farewell statement.
“Maria was part of all of our lives. Even when she was hospitalized — and she knew something was going on at CBS, she would call with counsel, encouragement, and would say ‘you can do this.’ I called Maria a ‘warrior,’ she was. Maria was a gift we cherished.”
As reported by CBS News, Mercader died from COVID-19 in a New York hospital after taking medical leave at the end of February for an unrelated matter. Before contracting the novel coronavirus, Mercader reportedly endured health battles from cancer and related illnesses for over two decades. According to the network, Mercader’s numerous surgeries and treatments left her vulnerable to the deadly virus.
We would joke that I’d survived one type of cancer and she’d survived all the others. And now we’ve lost her to this hideous virus.
Maria Mercader, CBS News Talent Executive and Producer, was as inspiring and lovely as any human being could be. Deepest condolences to her family. pic.twitter.com/GfcY83zGp6
— Manuel Bojorquez (@BojorquezCBS) March 29, 2020
Despite her struggles, CBS News said Mercader was an “inspiration” every time she returned from work after overcoming a health crisis.
“It’s nearly impossible to be someone EVERYONE loves, but Maria was,” Laurie Orlando, CBS News SVP of Talent, said of Mercader.
“She always had a warm hug, a word of advice or support and a big smile for everyone in her life. She was a bright light and will be sorely missed.”
Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews, Executive Vice President of Strategic Professional Development at CBS News, noted Mercader’s “loyalty, faith, kindness,” and “perseverance.” She pointed to Mercader’s legacy in CBS Archives but said her “magnificent human spirit” is what will live on in the people who knew her.
Mercader was born in New York City in 1965. She attended Dominican Academy in Manhattan before graduating from the College of New Rochelle in 1987, which is when she joined the CBS Page Program that would pave the way for her 20-year-plus career.
Across her CBS News career, Mercader helped with some of the network’s biggest stories, including the death of Princess Diana and the 9/11 attacks. In 2004, she was recognized for her CBS Sunday Morning report on computer spam and awarded with a Business Emmy.