Star Reporter: Richard Giacovas
Rye resident Richard Giacovas expands on making a mark at News 12, following his dream and why he’s not your typical Millennial.
photographs by stefan Radtke
Sitting in his favorite coffee shop, Slave to the Grind in Bronxville, Richard Giacovas, the 25-year-old whiz-kid reporter at News 12, freely admits he acts more like an old soul than a Millennial.
For starters, he calls his grandmothers every evening while on the way home from work. “I never want to have any regrets,” he says without a trace of self-consciousness. Plus, the mention of singer-songwriter Barry Manilow prompts a wide smile and a high-five. An unabashed “fanilow,” Giacovas has seen him perform 20 times. He lists other favorite singers more common for people twice his age, including Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond, joking, “You’ll say: ‘This is a 25-year-old, and he likes who?!’”
Giacovas displays similar self-deprecating charm while discussing his fondness for wearing tailored pajama sets, a la Robert DeNiro in the movie Meet the Parents. “That’s probably something I’ll never break: My pajamas have to be matching,” he declares. He also claims talk shows Ellen and The View as guilty pleasures, watching them nightly on his DVR, along, of course, with the local news. And each night ends the same way: brushing his teeth, for precisely three minutes, timed on his Sonicare toothbrush. And don’t even think of asking him to go to bed without flossing.
“I’m not your typical 25-year-old guy,” he laughs.
So, the story of the serendipity that landed him a job right out of college seems perfectly natural. Giacovas’ 78-year-old maternal grandmother, Barbara (fondly referred to as "Nanny"), a traditional nonna who prides herself on not taking no for an answer, had befriended Janine Rose while shopping in Lord & Taylor in Eastchester over the years. Well, Nanny wasted no time calling the longtime News 12 anchor/news director after Giacovas finished college. “My grandson wants to be in news,” Giacovas recalls, mimicking her voice. “In the end, it was [Rose] who led me to get in the door and interview for the job — and all of a sudden [I was] producing, overnight.”
It wasn’t quite that simple. Beneath the personality foibles Giacovas pokes fun at lies a solid work ethic, ambitious spirit, and laser focus.
From a young age, he wanted to be in front of the camera. Practicing in the living room, “I’d set up my little computer, take down the notes of the stories I wanted to do that day, get dressed up, and I’d sit there and announce the news like I was doing a newscast. Maybe I was 10,” he recalls. During high school, he wrote to his then-idol, Chuck Scarborough at WNBC in New York City, who invited him to visit the studio; they remain in occasional touch today.
Sunday dinners and life lessons from his maternal grandmother, Nanny, helped shape Giacovas. “Family is very, very important to me,” he says.
After graduating from Rye High School in 2009, where he performed in plays and anchored the televised morning announcements, Giacovas majored in mass communication with a focus on broadcast journalism at Iona College in New Rochelle. His choice of Iona was deliberate. “I knew it was going to be beneficial in terms of interning. I could get on the train there and be in the city in half an hour. I’d have 15-hour days: morning classes, internship at WNBC, come back and go to a night class.”
Giacovas started at News 12 in September 2013 as a freelance associate producer, soon becoming full-time, producing and occasionally reporting on-air. “I’d come in at 2:30 in the morning, leave at 11:30 three times a week, which led to weekends and night hours,” he says. “Then I was hired part-time, two weekend days, one during the week. I was brought on full-time in October 2014, then Monday through Friday.” The maternity leave of his best friend, producer Jenna Russo, offered the opportunity to produce the dayside hours and then the main shows, at 4:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. “It was a very quick rise; it really was,” he says. “I loved going to work every day.”
He recognizes his path was not traditional. “Most people, if they want to report and get on TV,” he says, “have to go to a small market in Montana, or Maine… somewhere that is very far from here, and then try to work their way back. I did not want to do that.”
Instead, he took advantage of being in the number-one television market, reasoning that a good producer knows the qualities that make a good reporter. He told the powers-that-be that he wanted to be on-camera. Persistence “led to more opportunities. I even covered some breaking news stories, and all of a sudden, I was reporting,” he relates, adding that this was fresh out of school, with no real experience in the field.
He went on to broadcast his first special report after only a year. In 2015, he was named one of the Business Council of Westchester’s 40 Under 40, “a huge honor,” he says, crediting Rose, Russo, and anchor Tara Rosenblum for their encouragement. This year, he was also honored as one of 914INC.’s Westchester Wunderkinds.
Rosenblum applauds Giacovas' "meteoric rise" at News12. "He is a superstar in every sense of the word, and I have no doubt we will all be working for him one day," she says. "Richard’s professionalism, high energy, and passion for the job are infectious and a true gift to our newsroom.”
Giacovas admits he is drawn to the softer side of news. He’s cohosted the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop in White Plains for the past three years and has snagged major celebrity interviews with Barry Manilow (a coup while at Iona) and comedy legend Carol Burnett. America’s Got Talent winner Grace VanderWaal thought Giacovas was Mario Lopez, with whom he shares similar dark good looks. Giacovas appreciates the comparison. “I could see myself either on the red carpet or the streets of New York City, covering a fire. I really enjoy doing both. So, I do not necessarily know what direction I would go in, but I would like to see what is thrown at me or what is offered to me.”
When he’s not working, “It’s a simple life, because my work is so fast-paced, and I’m constantly on, on, on. Hanging out with family, hanging out with friends, that’s my thing.” Growing up, Giacovas reveals that he “never really had friends,” because his interests differed from his peers.
A stylish, edgy dresser who sports a wristful of David Yurman bracelets, he enjoys shopping at Richards in Greenwich, where he also religiously spends two to three hours at Equinox Fitness four times a week. Though he says career is his priority, he adds that he hopes to meet the right woman. However, “Once they hear Barry Manilow, they may say goodbye,” he quips.
Raised in Rye, in a close-knit traditional Italian family, he still lives at home with parents, Rich and Marie, and younger sister Nicolette. “Family is very, very important to me,” he affirms.
Twice a month, Nanny hosts Sunday dinner. “Every time we go there, it’s the same thing: ‘Here’s the pizza I made… here’s the ‘macaroni,’ as she calls it, and we have to make a big deal of it,” he says. Ironically, this self-described “good Italian boy” detests garlic and can detect it a mile away.
Though Giacovas jokes about his family, it’s clear he is lifted by unwavering support from his parents, as well as practical advice and unvarnished critiques from his paternal grandmother, Dee Dee. “She was the one who took me to my first show, took me out to dinner all the time, showed me manners, and told me really good stories of her past. She gave me the best advice, to follow my dream, and she always rooted for me.”
According to Dee Dee, this also meant a few frank words. “When Richard is not doing something I feel that meets the bar, I will be the first one not to placate him,” she declares. “I’ve always been upfront…. I only try to steer him correctly.”
Despite his many achievements at such a young age, Giacovas says he is hungry for more. “Once I realized I could have that opportunity, and I came to News 12 and got on the air for the first time, I thought: Wow, my dream is being realized,” he says. “Once you get a taste of something, you want it even more.”
Liz Susman Karp is a freelance writer who lives in Briarcliff Manor and is, coincidentally, also a big fan of Barry Manilow.