Phil Gianficaro: Finding Extraordinary in the Ordinary

Robert Brashear, Student Writer

On the morning of Thursday, Feb. 13, journalism students at Pennridge High School were visited by three members of The Intelligencer, including regional Executive Editor Shane Fitzgerald, investigative reporter Marion Callahan, and columnist Phil Gianficaro.  The three visitors spoke to students regarding their life experience as journalists, sharing details about moving events such as the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 and even an interview with a Holocaust survivor.  While events such as the Columbine shooting made headlines worldwide, the three cited local news stories as their most gratifying work. This emphasis on local feel-good stories was particularly evident in the work of Phil Gianficaro, who claimed it is extremely “rewarding to write about people in the community.”

Gianficaro explained the influence journalism has allowed him to have on his community through several heartwarming stories.  The first of these stories detailed Cris Sterling, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor and was forced to sell his car in order to pay for his medication.  Gianficaro recalled overhearing Sterling’s unfortunate story inside a local Wawa convenience store before questioning him further. He then wrote an article about his situation which attracted an outpouring of support from the community.  Eventually, the story reached a local Fred Beans car dealership, which contacted Gianficaro in hopes of providing the carless man with a new vehicle. Through Phil’s article, he was able to positively impact the life of a fellow community member in need.

Another touching story Gianficaro shared concerned a family of four orphaned children from Quakertown whose parents passed away roughly four months apart back in 2018.  His article featuring their story generated a great deal of community support and financial aid to the children in need of help. Gianficaro explained the immense feeling of gratitude he felt upon receiving a thank you phone call from the eldest child of the family.  

Another point Gianficaro stressed during his time with the Pennridge High School students was that journalism is a field of work which may not always be immediately rewarding, but rather an eventual return on one’s investment.  Gianficaro’s final story illustrating this concept was written about a young high school football player who had a poor performance in a big game against a cross-town rival. Rather than writing an article further criticizing the performance of the player, who had been crying in the locker room after the game, Gianficaro chose to write a positive article talking about how the player was in an ideal situation for future success after facing these difficulties.  Roughly a decade later, the boy from the story found Gianficaro in a local bar and pulled an old, torn copy of his article from the inside of his wallet, claiming he had carried it with him ever since it was written almost ten years ago. Gianficaro explained to the Pennridge students that he had no idea the impact his article would have on the boy when he wrote it, but was extremely proud his work ended up having a positive influence on his future.

  Overall, Gianficaro’s work as a columnist focused on finding exceptional or unusual stories within what most consider to be regular, everyday life.  He cited his ability to have a positive influence and give back to his community as two of the main reasons he loves his career as a journalist.