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Alicia Vitarelli
Living large with the 6abc anchor
By Elyse Notarianni

Photo courtesy of 6abc


You can see Alicia at the third panel of our Women’s Empowerment Series, “Claiming Your Seat at the Table,” on November 12. Get your tickets here.


 

Alicia Vitarelli is the kind of woman who hugs you when you say hello. She’s as comfortable being the life of the party as she is having a heart-to-heart talk over a glass of wine. She loves to listen, and even more, she loves to talk.

As one of four siblings from what she describes as “a big, loud New York Italian-American family,” the 6abc anchor can’t imagine being any other way.

“Growing up in a big family teaches you to find your voice,” she says. “Everyone’s always talking. Everyone’s got their heart on their sleeve. Everyone’s always moving, so it’s up to you to speak out, step up and find your way.”

With her family tracing its roots back to the Calabria and Basilicata regions of Southern Italy, she’s routinely named “Italian-American Woman of the Year” by cultural organizations across the country and has been the Grand Marshal of the North Wildwood Italian-American Festival. Her heritage, she says, taught her to value family and hard work.

She immediately felt at home in Philadelphia when she landed a job with 6abc nine years ago. She previously spent time in the broadcasting world in Chicago, Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C. Her last stop before Philly was News 12 New Jersey, where she produced the Emmy-nominated series “Best Kept Secrets of New Jersey.”

“Everywhere you go around here, people want to help you tell the story,” says Vitarelli, who will be speaking as a panelist for SJ Mag’s Women’s Empowerment Series on Nov. 12. “No one is shutting doors in your face. It’s a wonderful market because the community is so connected with 6abc, and they have been for decades.”

From reporting on the royal wedding to “Dancing with the Stars” to the benediction of John Paul II, she has covered high-profile stories during her career as well as A-list celebrities that sometimes left her star-struck (a recent interview with Tom Hanks comes to mind). But some stories are harder than others. Among them, reporting about a 5-year-old South Jersey girl missing since September has been hard for Vitarelli, whose daughter Priscilla is 5.

“Breaking news is a part of the job, but when you cover things that are really traumatic, it takes a toll,” she says. “When I tell these stories, it’s hard. These are real people’s lives.”

But talking about difficult issues, especially personal ones, makes for genuine connections with her audience. One of the most powerful stories she’s shared, she says, was a sit-down interview with 6abc veteran anchor Jim Gardner about her own experiences with infertility caused by endometriosis.

“I had the ability to have a really honest, raw conversation about it,” Vitarelli says. “It’s been one of the highlights of my career. I had the chance to give people hope in what can be a really lonely, personal experience.”

Vitarelli also enjoys connecting with viewers on social media. Whether it’s sharing a news story on Twitter or a beyond-adorable photo of Priscilla on Instagram, she’s an open book. But, she points out, she’s careful not to give too much away.

“There’s a difference between being authentic and being opinionated,” she says. “My job is to connect with people on a human level, but I need to do it without giving opinions.”

Vitarelli got her first taste of Philadelphia as an undergraduate at Villanova University, where she studied communications, Spanish and theater. When she started college, she knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life.

“Journalism found me early on,” she says, referring to the teen program she joined at a local newspaper as a 14-year-old. “We went out and covered breaking news stories. We’d do feature stories, we’d do man-on-the-street interviews, and I just fell in love. I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life.”

Still, making a name for yourself in broadcasting isn’t easy. But she knew that going in. Early in her career, Vitarelli was a “one-man band,” shooting video, finding her own stories and basically handling every aspect of reporting while learning the industry through trial and error.

“You have to have a fire in your belly,” she says. “You have to cherish every chance you get. Every newscast is a new opportunity to keep growing.”

When she’s not on your TV screen, you can catch the news anchor trying new restaurants or heading to the shore with Priscilla and her husband Matthew Pantaleno, a photojournalist.

With her family life full and a news cycle that never fails to bring something unexpected, Vitarelli’s life is never dull, she says, and that’s a great motivator.

“Try something new every day,” she adds. “That’s how you create opportunities. There’s no way that anyone who’s been successful in any industry has done so without stepping up, stepping off a ledge and trusting themselves.”

 


You can see Alicia at the third panel of our Women’s Empowerment Series, “Claiming Your Seat at the Table,” on November 12. Get your tickets here.

November 2019
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