Rob Dirienzo Chopper

On Oct. 17, student journalist Julie Christie reported the pending demolition of Norris Homes, an affordable housing development. Although located on 11th Street between Berks and Diamond, directly behind Temple University, most are unaware of the 75 families being forced to relocate.

"They are losing a tight-knit community that they have grown and created for themselves," said Christie.

A native of Brookline, New Hampshire, the junior journalism major found her passion for news reporting in her sophomore year of high school. During her college search, she discovered Temple's student newspaper, The Temple News.

"The Temple News covered not just what was going at the school but also what was happening in the community and I wanted to understand different perspectives in life," Christie said.

Her story, "Before the homes become rubble," covered a range of ideas including the university's expansion and the issues faced by the surrounding community. In 2014, the Philadelphia Housing Authority was awarded a grant by Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, calling for the housing project to be demolished and later rebuilt, in turn displacing the people that live there.

"One man stated that his little brother had taken his first steps and now those memories are going to be gone," said Christie. "Home is more than a roof over your head.It's your memories, it's the people you loved there."

The new integrated housing will be dedicated for populations with mixed incomes.

After reading the article, Larry Stains, associate professor at Klein College, decided to submit it to the Hearst Journalism Awards Writing Competition. Stains taught Christie during her freshman year at Temple and remained in touch with her after the course ended.

The Hearst Journalism Awards program was founded in 1960 with the mission to encourage college-level journalism. According to  its website, the program awards up to $700,000 annually in scholarships to students and matching grants to their universities.

Christie placed eighth in the feature writing portion of the competition, among 154 entries from 82 schools. 

"It was an educational experience for me, I learned about how other people live and the things that they have to go through that I have never experienced," said Christie. "It gave me a better understanding of why I came to Temple to do this kind of reporting."

Robert DiRienzo had a similar feeling when he discovered that his submission placed fifth in the semi-final round of the Television News category. 

After receiving a tip concerning thousands of tickets issued by the Philadelphia Parking Authority being overturned due to a pending lawsuit, he jumped into action.

"Parking Wars in Philadelphia" is a short news segment that highlights the possible negligence of the Philadelphia Parking Authority and its unlawful ticketing. The video includes cameos of local residents as well as significant facts surrounding the issue.

He was encouraged by faculty members Neil Ortiz and Fran Viola to submit it to the Hearst competition.

"A few weeks passed, I sort of forgot about it," said DiRenzo. "Then, one day in May 2017 the phone rang. My heart was pounding when I found out who it was."

He created a report about the lawsuit for Philadelphia Neighborhoods, the Department of Journalism's capstone course dedicated to covering the city's underserved populations.

DiRienzo, KLN '17,  served as an anchor on "Temple Update," a multimedia editor for the Temple News, and junior reporter for "Good Day Philadelphia" on Fox 29.

Currently, he is a fill-in airborne reporter aboard Chopper 4 for NBC New York (WNBC-TV). He has reported on various incidents including emergency repairs on the Newark Bay extension and the deadly fire in the Bronx.

"Every day, I find my dreams coming true in the wildest ways. I made my on-air debut just after Christmas and since then I have been covering breaking news and traffic high above New York City from the chopper," said DiRienzo.

"I am indebted to Klein College for preparing me for such an adventure. I can't wait to find out what's next."

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