Long before Paul Ruggieri became a 21 time Emmy Award winning television photojournalist, he was a high school student on a mission.
“A teacher, Mr. Orlando, put a camera in my hand and asked me to take photos for the yearbook. That’s when I discovered a path to a career. I started thinking about how great it would be if I could put my photography into motion,” he said.
So when a local cable company was looking for volunteers to run camera during a charity telethon, Paul jumped at the chance.
At 16 years old, he was so glad to be operating a television camera that he did so for 18 straight hours. Bill Corbett, the manager of the cable office took notice of Paul’s work ethic and offered him a part-time maintenance job.
Then Bill became a mentor.
“He taught me that no matter how insignificant the job may seem, it’s important to do it perfectly. So whether I was sweeping floors, taking inventory, or doing odd jobs, I paid attention to every detail. Bill taught me to care about everything I do,” said Paul.
Today, he puts that lesson into practice as a television photojournalist for WQED, a PBS affiliate. So whether he’s filming on location or wrapping up the electrical cords after the shoot, Paul does so with great care.
Even when it would be easier to take short cuts, as it would have been on one bitter cold December day in Poland, Paul wouldn’t think of it.
He explained, “We were shooting a documentary on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. There were three survivors and 40 teachers from the Pittsburgh area with us. This would become an educational tool and a historical record about the Holocaust.
Our crew spent much of the day getting exterior shots of the barracks and grounds in a relentless, driving rain. The producer was doing his best to hold the umbrella over me and the camera, but the lens kept getting wet.
It went something like this.
I’d shoot a scene… rain would fall on the lens,…we’d stop…the producer would dry it off… I’d shoot some more, and this went on and on. All the while a cold pouring rain was dripping from the umbrella onto my back. Since it was raining, I could have gotten away with some drops of water on the lens, but I wanted every single shot to be picture perfect.”
And it was.
The documentary, From Pittsburgh to Poland: Lessons from the Holocaust was the winner of four Mid-Atlantic Emmy Awards; the Gabriel Award for Outstanding News/Informational Documentary; the Edward R. Murrow Award for Outstanding News Documentary; and the Western Pennsylvania Press Club’s Golden Quill Award for Outstanding Videography.
The lesson Paul learned from his mentor, Bill, as a teenager has remained with him.
He said, “I want every new project I do to be better than the last. I never rest until it’s the best that it can be”.