My alarm goes off at 1:30 a.m. — it’s barbaric, I know,” says Lisa LaRocca, longtime reporter for News12 Westchester. While she admits to the occasional tap of the snooze button, LaRocca is up long before dawn almost every day, preparing to go wherever news is being made in our area.
On air at 5 a.m. sharp, she has to move fast during those early morning hours. National reporters might be briefed on the events of the day while sitting in salon chairs, but LaRocca doesn’t have that luxury. “I do my own hair and put the ‘clown’ makeup on myself,” she says with a laugh. Meanwhile, she and her producer begin to outline the morning’s broadcast via email or phone. Once a plan is set, “I’ll sit down at my computer, do some research and write up my stories,” LaRocca says. All of this must happen before she and her trusted cameraman, Carlo Pellegrino, meet at the studio in Yonkers, around 3:30 a.m., ready to jump in the news van and head to where the news is. “We spend more time in the car together than most married couples,” LaRocca says.
Her dead-of-night workday might lead to burnout in some, but LaRocca claims to prefer the early-morning shift. “I like being done early. That’s a real plus once the weather gets nice. Of course, if there’s a crazy breaking story, I’m out there as long as they need me,” she adds. Her dedication has paid off: LaRocca has earned multiple awards, including a New York Emmy for a series on bariatric surgery and an Edward R. Murrow Award for her contribution to a piece on the East Ramapo Central School District.
It also helps that she’s wanted this job since she was 13 years old. After watching the news one evening, she announced over dinner that she was going to be a journalist. Her parents said, “sure,” assuming “I’d probably change my mind 100 times,” LaRocca says. While LaRocca’s ambition didn’t exactly waver, she did pursue a double major in college, for journalism and teaching. But her fate was sealed when she began working on the nightly newscast produced by journalism students at her school, Ohio’s Ashland University. “I got that microphone in my hand, and I was hooked,” LaRocca says.
The veteran journalist is certainly a natural with a mic. Her reporting style is warm and friendly, with just the right amount of unabashed persistence. Ask about her favorite stories, and she tells you about the time she saw the MetLife blimp at a local golf tournament and asked the pilot for a ride. Not only did he say yes, he ended up cruising over LaRocca’s parents’ house in Harrison at her request. When LaRocca was doing a story on AJ’s Burgers in New Rochelle, she knew the owner was friendly with Yankee Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera. Naturally, she suggested that he invite Rivera to join them. He did. “[Baseball’s] greatest closer comes walking into the restaurant,” says LaRocca. “We cooked with him and had the best time.” To experience a truly classic LaRocca moment, check out her 2020 interview (now on YouTube) with Ann Mara Cacase, daughter of longtime New York Giants owner Wellington Mara. LaRocca put together a moving piece highlighting her charity work at the San Miguel Academy in Newburgh. The segment ends with a reenactment of David Tyree’s famous helmet catch in Super Bowl XLII — LaRocca in the role of Eli Manning, throwing the ball to Cacase’s David Tyree, both in helmets. Yes, that happened… because LaRocca thought it would be fun.
LaRocca will ask subjects just about anything when she’s doing a “positive” feature. When stories are darker, however, she sometimes struggles with the need to insert herself. “The part of the job I absolutely hate is that I often have to be someplace at the absolute worst possible moment of another person’s life,” she says. Ultimately, LaRocca’s sensitivity helps guide her as to when it’s time to put the microphone down. “Some reporters just go in, cameras blazing; that’s not me. I’ll say, ‘I’m sorry I even have to do this, but do you feel up to speaking?’ People often want to. It makes them feel better, although I never push it.”
Because she is essentially covering her hometown, LaRocca might take her job more personally than some journalists. Raised in Harrison, she was a high school cheerleader, a town lifeguard, and had her first kiss “on the hill, during St. Anthony of Padua’s Festa Italiana — just like everyone else.” She worked in newsrooms in New York City after college and was an on-air reporter in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, but always felt drawn back home. “Harrison is such a close-knit community. I love this place,” says LaRocca. “That’s why people who grow up here often stay. My husband is from Yonkers, and after his first visit here, he asked, ‘Do you realize how lucky you are to have grown up in a town like this?’”
It seems that she does, and both Harrison and Westchester County are happy to have her.
Summer flash sale ... subscribe and save 50%
Limited time offer. New subscribers only.