September 25, 2018
School & Youth
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  • Chesapeake High graduate Rob Petree is a reporter with Delaware 105.9 WXDE News-Talk Radio.
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    Chesapeake High graduate Rob Petree is a reporter with Delaware 105.9 WXDE News-Talk Radio.

Where Are They Now: Rob Petree

Zach Sparks
View Bio
April 17, 2018

Investigative Reporter Got His Start At Chesapeake

When he wakes up at 4:00am to get ready for another day as an investigative news reporter, Rob Petree often recalls the motto “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me.”

That mindset helped him overcome a temporary split between his parents — a situation that spurred his decision to drop out of high school midway through his junior year — and it helped him finish the National External Diploma Program and land a dream gig in broadcasting.

Though his path is unorthodox, he never doubted his passion for entertaining.

“I’ve always been an outgoing person who loves the spotlight,” Petree said. “I did acting, I sang in church and I did talent shows.”

Petree can still picture the WCHS set at Chesapeake High School — the equipment and the “big pane of glass” that mirrored the studio.

“I was enamored,” he said. “I remembered my first day as a freshman, I was taken aback that they offered that.”

Chesapeake’s media specialist, Geri Cvetic, asked him to join the morning announcements, or as Petree described it, “That woman laid the groundwork for me.” He discussed issues at the school and added weather reports to his plate during sophomore year.

“He was one of those students who was so spontaneous when he got in front of the camera and he would just go with it,” Cvetic said. “He could get in front of the camera and be so engaging, and I think he was more persistent than just about anyone I’ve ever met.”

He did the morning announcements from fall 2010 to spring 2012. “Naturally, with broadcasting, you have to be outgoing; you can’t be shy and I never was,” he said. “There was not one person in that school who didn’t know who I was. Now, half the school loved me and half the school hated me,” he added with a laugh.

Petree recalls his Chesapeake days fondly, but he also dealt with stress at home. His family came from modest financial means, and depression surfaced when his parents separated.

He dropped out of high school and stayed busy in other ways. He logged hours at Sears. When he was 18 or 19, he ventured to New York City to shoot a Hulu commercial in which he described his affinity for World Wrestling Entertainment. Eventually, he enrolled in the external diploma program, a one-year commitment that focused on budgeting, bills, math and writing.

He spent one semester at Anne Arundel Community College, pondered a career in acting and moved to Delaware for a relationship. All of those decisions led him back to his love for the spotlight.

In 2015, he began a 600-hour course of “intense training” at Broadcasting Institute of Maryland, a trade school in Parkville.

Nine months after leaving the institute, he landed his first paid gig with Delaware 105.9 WXDE News-Talk Radio. One year in, he received a promotion, and he is celebrating the second anniversary with the company this April.

“I’m the news director, essentially,” he said. “In the past year, I’ve been able to focus on investigative news and I changed our content a little bit. Road closures and stuff like that we don’t put out, and we don’t do much of the ‘got to clean out your kiddie pool so you don’t get eaten by mosquitoes’ and stuff people don’t pay any mind to. I have a lot more time to look into issues.”

As examples, he cited an exclusive story on thieves stealing donations from thrift stores and another piece exploring Delaware’s emergency voucher program for the homeless. “That’s great,” he said of the concept, “but it pays for them to stay at motels with deplorable conditions. These are people sleeping outside in the cold. We need to do better than that.”

Petree enjoys holding lawmakers accountable and serving as a voice of the people of Sussex County, Delaware.

“This is not a job to me at all,” Petree said. “I’ve learned so much and met so many great people, and most importantly, I’m in a position with the news media to make a positive difference.”

Whether he’s waking up pre-dawn or returning to Pasadena to visit family, he reflects on his journey and feels blessed for both the good and bad moments.

“Nothing about my journey has been easy, but when I drive down Mountain Road, it all comes back,” Petree said. “I’m so thankful.”

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