Our final “Passing the Torch” piece features Dennis Biviano, a multimedia journalist with Spectrum News 1. He covers news from our Italian festivals and whenever something remarkable is happening in the general community. His winning demeanor and friendly approach to journalism have pleased and informed audiences throughout our local area.
Dennis Biviano (DB): Thank you for this opportunity, Mr. Lariccia. It’s always great to speak to you. My hometown of Niles, Ohio is about 20 minutes outside of Youngstown. I am a fourth generation Italian American, living and raising a family in the city. My son is fifth generation. I am 100 percent Italian/Sicilian, with both sides of my family tracing roots back to the town of Gioiosa Marea in Sicily. Ancestors from my Italian side are from the Abruzzo region of central Italy.
LG: Some Italian Americans connect with their heritage through genealogy, reading, or even visiting ancestral villages in Italy. Have you been involved in any of these pursuits? What have you discovered?
DB: I think more and more millennials are curious about their roots. In 2010, I caught the Ancestry.com and Family Search bug. Over the next several years, I explored and learned more about my heritage. It was a no-brainer for my wife and I to honeymoon to Italy and Sicily. We were able to visit my maternal grandfather’s home where he grew up and paid our respects to many of our relatives who were laid to rest at the cemetery in Gioiosa Marea. The highlight of the trip was when Pope Francis blessed us as newlyweds and shook our hands after the service.
LG: What favorite memories do you have from your childhood in Niles?
DB: I think of playing baseball in the youth league at Waddell Park, street football with friends, and the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Festival. The festival is now in its 90th year and I’m pretty sure a member of my family has been involved since the beginning. For the last 27 years my parents, two brothers and I have operated the meatball and chicken parmesan sandwich booth.
It’s a favorite summer tradition and allows us to reconnect with familiar faces. I can also remember things like helping my dad in the garden and my grandmothers in the kitchen. Their meals had a way of bringing the family together, especially around the holidays. It was a simpler lifestyle with old-world traditions. And now, my wife and I try to carry on those same traditions and recreate those memories for our son.
LG: You’re a familiar TV reporter to many in Ohio. How did you become involved with television?
DB: I knew that I wasn’t going to be a professional baseball player, so the next best thing was to be around the game. My first love was radio. I originally wanted to be a play-by-play announcer. Growing up, I listened to the great baseball announcer for the Indians/Guardians Tom Hamilton on WTAM 1100. I’ve always been inspired by his knowledge and passion for the game. During my time at Kent State, I had the opportunity to do play-by-play for baseball, but when I tried out for TV-2 my focus really shifted. Being out in the field, reporting on local and professional sports was a game changer for me. After spending years as a photographer, I received an opportunity to become a multi-media journalist at WKBN in Youngstown. The chance to be a one-man band: filming, interviewing, writing, editing and appearing in front of the camera really fueled my love of TV news.
LG: What do you enjoy most about your job at Spectrum News 1?
DB: My journey with Spectrum News began in 2014 in Raleigh, NC. I was a general assignment reporter, covering news, politics and social issues. In 2016, I returned to the Buckeye state and worked with Spectrum Sports in Columbus. In 2018, Spectrum Sports transformed into Spectrum News 1. Over the past five years, I’ve been fortunate to cover a variety of stories from manufacturing and tech to health and sports. This invaluable experience has allowed me to travel the state, sharing peoples’ stories. For me, that’s what it is all about – bringing attention to individuals and their narratives.
LG: Do you live in Niles again?
DB: It’s been a time warp; some things feel the same, yet other things feel very different. Nearly a decade away from home is a long time. The one constant is family, and I’m happy to say that my 18-month-old son will get to grow up knowing his six first cousins, aunts and uncles, my parents and in-laws, and our extended family. The commercial growth around the Eastwood Mall is great to see, especially coming from a big city like Columbus. I’m currently residing in my family homestead. Five generations of Biviano’s grew up here, and I’ve always had an appreciation and fondness for my hometown and traditions. I would love to see my son follow in my footsteps and attend high school at John F. Kennedy Catholic School.
LG: The rapid loss of traditional manufacturing jobs hit the Mahoning Valley hard. What’s important in representing our rust belt communities in your journalism?
DB: If there is news value and a story to tell, I’m not afraid to re-visit the tough times. However, I try to cover the positive aspects within the stories and communities I visit. There is a lot of growth happening, from the increased number of developments with technology companies to the thriving the Regional Chamber, Business Incubator, and manufacturing companies, including Ultium Cells Plant in Lordstown. To me, it’s important to shed light on diverse perspectives and tell and share stories that resonate with the community.
LG: What was the most exciting sports game you’ve reported on?
DB: Sixteen years ago, I was part of the coverage team reporting on Youngstown boxer Kelly Pavlik’s knockout victory over Jermain Taylor, capturing the World Middleweight Title. In my 20 years covering professional sporting events for the Cavaliers, Ohio State, Browns, and Guardians, that moment on Sept 29, 2007, is still number one on my list. The underdog prevailed, it was unexpected and put the Mahoning Valley back on the map. And I got to witness it 100 feet from the ring.
LG: Thanks so much for sharing your stories. With open arms we welcome you back to the Mahoning Valley.