Traveled newsman welcomes homecoming to W.Va.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Regular viewers of WCHS-TV Eyewitness News welcomed a new guest into their homes earlier in December. The station's newest reporter, Stefano DiPietrantonio, a Wheeling native, is relishing in his long-awaited homecoming.
"Having lived all over the world now, I have such an appreciation for what we have," DiPietrantonio said. "I've always appreciated West Virginia."
The ABC affiliate is planning to launch a 5 p.m. newscast in early 2014. While WCHS hasn't announced officially the 5 p.m. broadcast's main talent, DiPietrantonio is enthusiastic about the new program.
"I'm excited to put my own stamp on a new broadcast," DiPietrantonio said.
The 47-year-old news veteran has had what he calls "a gypsy career" as a journalist, model and singer-songwriter.
"All of these things have come together to help. ... I'm not afraid of too much," DiPietrantonio said.
DiPietrantonio spent 10 of his 25 years in news doing the weather. Most recently, he was the third anchor on a 5 p.m. newscast for Fox in Tampa Bay.
"I was the guy out there swinging on the zip line live, poll dancing live," he said. "I was that guy doing all that nutty stuff."
But DiPietrantonio -- often called Stef by those who know him -- has a serious side. He has covered many disasters throughout his career -- hurricanes, murders, families in crisis -- each, he says, more humbling than the last.
"On the worst day of [someone's] life, why they're standing there talking to me has always amazed me," DiPietrantonio said. "Why they've chosen to reveal something delicate and incredible, it always kind of blows me away."
Circumstances around DiPietrantonio's colorful life can be chalked up to fate. As a track-and-field athlete at Florida State University, a modeling gig for an annual calendar took the naïve Mountaineer to the runways of Italy for designers, such as Calvin Klein and Valentino, he said.
"I certainly was not singled out as one of their top models or anything, but I worked for a lot of famous people," DiPietrantonio said.
This time in his life was "surreal," he said. It led him to awkward moments backstage at fashion shows: He wondered what the first-aid tape that accompanied a stack of pristine Calvins was for. He was told, "Calvin wants you to know the product is the star, not you. ... I was like a thousand shades of red."
He toured throughout Italy with his band, full-fledged rock star hair in tow.
His 10-year hiatus eventually came to an end, and DiPietrantonio returned to broadcast journalism, first in Cincinnati, then in Tampa Bay.
Greater autonomy was a large reason why DiPietrantonio left the larger station in Tampa -- he said he didn't have much control over his image or singing career outside of work -- but he wanted to spend more time with his family, too.
One of six kids, DiPietrantonio comes from a large Italian family that has been dwindling over the past year as aunts and uncles have "checked out way too early," he said. With two ailing parents in Wheeling, DiPietrantonio wanted to be closer to home.
"There's a point in your life where I don't think it matters where you've been and what all you've done," DiPietrantonio said. "If you don't have your mom and dad, what the hell?"
While DiPietrantonio is new to Charleston, he is already making big plans for himself. He plans to open an antique homegoods store on Charleston's West Side at 418 Virginia St. W.
Called Tresori -- Italian for treasure -- it will also house Tutto Biscotti, a bakery featuring seven kinds of biscotti based on an aunt's recipe.
DiPietrantonio also hopes to record and release a new album within the year, maybe even a Christmas special at the station, he said.
And though he is a kind of Renaissance man, storytelling is DiPietrantonio's passion. He hopes to make a difference at WCHS, which he called a hometown station.
"On people's worst day, here we are asking them how they're getting through it. And sometimes they actually decide to share it with us," DiPietrantonio said.
Reach Rachel Molenda at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5102.