When Rolfe Neill was editor of the Daily News in the early 1970s, he hung a sign from the ceiling of the newsroom that read: "The reporter is the most important man in this room."
Gloria Campisi, one of those reporters, decided to have a talk with Neill in his office, recalled Frank Dougherty, another reporter on staff at the time.
A couple of days later, Neill had a new sign put up: "The reporter is the most important person in this room."
Ms. Campisi, 75, of Broomall, a pioneering journalist who was among the first female reporters hired at the Daily News, died Thursday, Aug. 10, at Bryn Mawr Hospital from congestive heart failure and pulmonary fibrosis, said her stepdaughter Maureen McGuire. Ms. Campisi had been admitted on Monday.
"Everything about Gloria was first-rate. Terrific human being, terrific journalist. We will all miss her tenacity and her kindness," said Michael Days, former editor of the Daily News and now editor, reader engagement, at Philadelphia Media Network, publisher of the paper and the Inquirer.
Following a stint with United Press International, Ms. Campisi started at the Daily News in the late 1960s as a reporter and later became responsible for night rewrite of feeds from reporters at the scenes of some of Philadelphia's biggest stories. She also excelled at using the "trick book," a reverse phone directory that would provide numbers based on addresses.
"Gloria was awesome," said Kitty Caparella, a former longtime Daily News reporter. "She could track down people and story details when there was no internet, only a phone book, with one interviewee leading to the next. She could make a story sing. Her short descriptive stories captured the essence in a tabloid known for its brevity."
"Before Google or Facebook or Instagram, we had Gloria, who tracked down the subjects of stories after hours using a landline, phone books, and magic," said Ellen Gray, television critic for the Daily News and Inquirer.
"In her earlier years, she was very much on the scene," said Ramona Smith, another former colleague. In 1975, Ms. Campisi covered the Gulf Oil Co. refinery fire that resulted in the death of eight firefighters, and she "found herself at the scene wearing heels."
Dougherty and others recalled that Ms. Campisi was detained during the tumultuous 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, but it was unclear if she was there as a reporter with UPI or had accompanied another reporter covering the event.
"She was taken into custody in a sweep, and sort of lost in the system, and then [she] was booted out of Chicago," Dougherty said.
On Facebook, another former colleague, Carol Towarnicky, recalled how when she was an assistant city editor, Ms. Campisi was working when Mayor Frank L. Rizzo boasted in an interview that Philadelphia cops "could invade Cuba and win."
"The word came down that we were supposed to try to reach Fidel Castro for comment. Gloria gave it her all but, no surprise, didn't get through. I have no doubt that if she'd reached Fidel, he'd have talked with her," Towarnicky wrote.
Ms. Campisi was born in Philadelphia to Salvatore Campisi and his wife, the former Alyce Hopkins. She attended Friends Select School and then earned a bachelor's degree at Temple University.
In 1997, she married Jack McGuire, a legendary police reporter at the Daily News, who was a widower with nine children. Their relationship began in the 1970s, said Maureen McGuire.
Jack McGuire died in 2002, and nine years later Ms. Campisi ended her career when she took a buyout in 2011.
In addition to her nine stepchildren, Ms. Campisi is survived by her friend and caregiver Flo Scanlon.