Tuned In: Local Anchorwoman's Success
BY ROBERT STRAUSS
Pat Ciarrocchi backstage at Talk Philly
The Ides of March is no feared date for Pat Ciarrocchi. It was on March 15, 1982, that she first reported from the old Channel 3 newsroom, at Fifth and Market Streets, a fledgling TV journalist back in her hometown. “The window opened for that little bit, and I jumped in,” says Ciarrocchi, now, 30 years later, the longest-tenured female anchor in Philadelphia.
These days Ciarrocchi can be found at noon during the week on Philly, a half-hour news and lifestyle program that she coanchors with old friend (and fellow Philly native) Ukee Washington. No longer on the early-morning newscasts, which she did with Washington and others for 14 of those 30 years, she still occasionally takes a seat at the news desk for later shows. “Early mornings especially were a good thing for me,” she says. “You have a loyal audience there, and they want to trust you. Every story may not be vital, but honesty and accuracy are. I always wanted my voice to be the one that would make them listen and trust.”
Ciarrocchi grew up in Kennett Square and went to nearby Rosemont College. Her family never traveled much, she says, “but my siblings and I didn’t miss out on anything, and I was always curious. I kid that my parents were my first producers.”
Ciarrocchi worked in radio in Wilmington, Delaware, and television in Hagerstown, Maryland, prior to her return to Philadelphia. In addition to the early-morning news, there were also two years of anchoring CBS’s Evening Magazine, and in between, Ciarrocchi traveled the globe for a variety of assignments. “But that was before Skype and other technologies,” she says. “Back then, you had to be there, whether it was covering conflict in Israel, or [being in] Rome for the Pope. There was no other way to get the story.”
Speaking of The Holy See, Ciarrocchi at one point regularly covered the local Catholic diocese for Channel 3, beginning with the search for miracles that eventually made localite Katharine Drexel a saint, through the tenures of John Cardinal Krol and Anthony Bevilacqua as the head of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, and including an interview with the new archbishop, Charles Chaput, the first on local television, this past September.
Ciarrocchi has no goal or grand plan to celebrate her career milestone—though she and her husband, David Fineman, love traveling to Italy, particularly the area around Venice. It was through her manicurist that Ciarrocchi met Fineman, then a divorcé with two young sons. He, too, was a local boy, but from different circumstances: brought up Jewish, raised in Wynnefield, attended Temple. Besides being well traveled, he was enamored of opera and obsessed with Philly’s sports teams. Ciarrocchi explains that she reveled in their differences, using them to broaden her interests. She is now also an opera buff and, like her husband, is learning to speak Italian.
In some ways, these new hobbies even improved Ciarrocchi’s abilities as an anchor. “I was a baseball fan growing up,” she says, favoring as a young girl the handsome Phillies outfielder Johnny Callison. When she anchored the morning show, she had to do voice-overs for the sports reports, and she studied hard to nail the proper rhythms and, of course, the proper pronunciation of every player’s name. “I never wanted anyone to say, ‘Oh, that girl doesn’t know anything about sports,’ ” she says. “But it has been that way about anything I write about or talk about on the air. I still find it enriching to do stories, big or small. Not everything is as important as 9/11, but you can learn something every time.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MICHAEL PERSICO