Pat Ciarrocchi, Respected News Journalist for KYW-TV and Co-Host of Talk Philly, Stays True to Wilmington Roots
First lady of Philly news: Newscaster Pat Ciarrocchi got her start in Wilmington. She remains strongly connected to the city
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“It was a time when a female on-air voice was fairly rare,” says John Rago, communications and policy director for Wilmington City Council. Rago, a WDEL reporter back then, recalls that there was some resistance to a woman joining the news staff.
“But good sense prevailed, and Pat was hired. She came in as a reporter, and once she grabbed hold of that position, she worked with it, generating fresh story ideas and new segments,” Rago says. “Back then radio news was fairly straightforward, but she was always looking to find the stories behind the stories and to connect with the people in the community.”
Ciarrocchi feels obligated to report the deeper, universal story. “You just have to listen carefully to hear it, and then to elevate that universal story above the immediate news,” she says. It’s not enough to report that there was a fire, she explains. You also need to show how people were affected.
“Pat makes a point of getting inside the story, of getting to know the players and understanding the situation so she can report on it. She works harder than a lot of people in this business,” says Pete Booker, president and CEO of Delmarva Broadcasting Co., which owns WDEL. Although he has never worked directly with Ciarrocchi, Booker has known her since high school. As colleagues in a close-knit industry, he has watched her career for decades. “All of us in the broadcasting industry would like to be regarded and respected in the way that Pat is,” he adds.
Despite her success in what was once a male-dominated field, Ciarrocchi dismisses the idea that she was a trailblazer. Instead, she points to Barbara Walters. “She was a real pioneer in this field. She led the way and created a path for me to follow.”
Ciarrocchi’s career in television began serendipitously. She was reading the news on WDEL one day when a veteran colleague asked if she’d ever considered television reporting, “because you look like you’re on television right now.” That observation altered her career goals, and she began looking for work in television news. Her first gig was at WHAG-TV, a small station in Hagerstown, Md. She worked there three years when she learned that KYW-TV news was putting together a hometown team. It was another divinely inspired moment, Ciarrocchi believes. Her aunt had written to the studio management to suggest they hire her niece. Soon after, Ciarrocchi—then working in the 154th broadcast market in the country—was called by KYW-TV, then and now the fourth biggest market in the country.
That was in 1982. She’s been at KYW ever since, adapting to myriad changes in the industry and sustaining her respected career through 12 news directors, 13 general managers and a change of network affiliation.
“I built my career on the philosophy Joe Biden used in his first run for Senate: People may not really know me, but I can get them to know me. You go out there and shake hands with them and look them in the eye,” she says. “I would accept every opportunity to speak, no matter how small—emceeing, graduations, public speaking for various groups—in order to create a public footing.”