Chillin' Wit' . . ." is a regular feature of the Daily News spotlighting a name in the news away from the job.
Rocco Palmo is only 29. The born-and-bred South Philly guy, thin at 5 feet 11 inches, is the go-to person for reporters and followers of the Catholic Church. The New York Times quoted him last month after the verdicts in the landmark Philadelphia church sex-abuse trial. So did the Washington Post. And CNN.
On Sunday afternoon, we're sitting outside the Grindcore House coffee shop at 4th and Greenwich streets in South Philly. It's vegan. He's not. He's drinking black coffee in a cappuccino-sized mug and a glass of ice water. He puffs away at his Djarum brand cigarettes.
He's talkative. (He gets it from his mom.) Without prompting, encyclopedic knowledge about the Vatican and the Philadelphia Archdiocese flows out of him.
Palmo, Italian and Catholic, went to Masterman for middle and high schools, then studied political science at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 2004. Later that year, he started his blog, Whispers in the Loggia, now read worldwide.
The blog was a side thing, at first. He wanted to be a reporter at the Daily News, but the People Paper would soon have buyouts instead of job openings.
Over the past years, Palmo has built up sources in the Vatican and throughout the U.S. He often breaks news. He now sometimes gets 15,000 unique visitors a day to his site, or 20,000 hits a day. Earlier this year, he was made a member of Archbishop Charles Chaput's lay advisory council.
As a full-time blogger, Palmo lives at home with his parents. He makes money through reader donations on his website.
The last 18 months have been super busy — reporting, blogging, traveling and tweeting on the "perfect storm" of things happening here in Philly: the February 2011 grand-jury report, the sex-abuse-coverup trial of Monsignor William Lynn, and the closings of Archdiocese schools.
He also kept up with Vatican news and sources. He would often get up at 6 a.m. Mondays to Saturdays since the Vatican makes big announcements at noon (it's six hours ahead). He would make or take calls at 3 a.m. if he needed to speak to someone at 9 a.m. there.
"I'm happy. I love what I'm doing. I've been offered jobs in Rome, Washington," he says, but he's turned them down.
"My family's here, my home's here."