PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s a bittersweet day at KDKA.
Today, after a remarkable 52 years in broadcasting, veteran reporter Ralph Iannotti is retiring.
Ralph began his career in 1967 at radio stations WAFS and WPTR in his home state of New York, serving as a disc jockey and talk show host.
His television career began in 1976 at WTEN, also in New York.
In 1982, he made the move to Pittsburgh.
For the past 37 years, Ralph has been covering the news of western Pennsylvania, and he says he’s loved every minute of it.
Ralph has covered thousands of stories during his career.
Because he’s worked the night shift all these years, most of them have been crime-related.
Two stories that stick out in Ralph’s mind are the disappearance of 8-year-old Cherrie Mahan in Butler County in 1985 and the murder of 11-year-old Scott Drake on the North Side in 2000.
Ralph has also covered some of the biggest events in western Pennsylvania over the past four decades, including the massive tornado outbreak on May 31, 1985, and the crash of USAir Flight 427 near Pittsburgh International Airport in 1994.
As one of the most trusted journalists in Pittsburgh, Ralph believes the story is never about him.
However, that was not the case at least a few times during his career.
In 2002, during a SWAT situation in Homewood, the suspect demanded to speak to a reporter.
The police commander called Ralph to come inside the home.
“I was only in there for a minute, if that much. He said I want to talk to you about the neighborhood, what’s not going on here, and what needs to be done. And I said, ‘Listen, I’ll get your story. I’ll tell your story, but you have to come down first before you or anybody else gets hurt,'” Ralph recalls.
WATCH: Ralph Iannotti on Pittsburgh Today Live —
Another story that Ralph inadvertently became a part of was also in 2002 when the late Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney had to make an emergency landing while flying his airplane back to Pittsburgh from Steelers Training Camp.
Just seconds before Ralph’s live report during the 11 o’clock news, Rooney opened the door of his home and gave Ralph a live interview on the news.
But Ralph’s career hasn’t been all hard news.
Every once in a while he found himself with a feature story, including a memorable 2009 interview with 1950s and 1960s singer Connie Francis who was in Uniontown for a performance.
Ralph’s favorite feature story, though, was with a former Romanian princess turned nun named Mother Alexandra.
As part of the Romanian royal family, Princess Ileana was forced to flee the country in 1947 when the Communist Party took over control of Romania.
She ended up in the United States, became a nun and eventually settled in Ellwood City, where she opened a monastery and operated it for years. When the Communist Party was forced out of Romania in the late 1980s, Ralph tracked down Mother Alexandra.
“I remember calling this monastery that she had set up and she answered the phone,” Ralph said.
Mother Alexandra invited Ralph to come to the monastery where she gave him an interview that Ralph says he’ll never forget.
While reflecting on his career, Ralph says, “How many people can say, honestly, they don’t work for a living? That they enjoy their job? And I do! I’ve had a marvelous journey over these 37 years. What made my journey so great was the people I worked with, the professionals. I think the people I’ve worked with are the most professional bunch of people I’ve ever seen. They put up with my attitudes, my mood swings, all these years, and they’ve helped me become a better person and a better reporter.”