From San Diego to Spokane, young sports anchor and Rancho Santa Fe native inspired by father’s legacy
By Rob LeDonne
It’s a Tuesday afternoon in Spokane, Wash., and Bryan Fenley has some rare time off. “My workdays are typically full of adrenaline,” said Fenley, who is the weekend sports anchor and a reporter for KREM, the city’s TV news affiliate. Fenley, who grew up in Rancho Santa Fe and only graduated from Santa Fe Christian High School in 2007, is the youngest person at the station.
“When I was first applying for jobs, I thought I’d shoot big and send my tape out to some medium-size markets,” Fenley explained about his decision to submit to KREM. “My boss wound up liking my tape and voice, and he gave me my big break. I’ll be forever grateful.”
Fenley covers both local and national sports in Spokane, and has a deep passion for his profession; a passion that stretches back to his childhood and is rooted in tragedy. When Fenley was just 11 years old, his father, Joe, was diagnosed with cancer.
“My dad grew up so poor some nights he didn’t even have food on the table,” Fenley said of his family’s roots. “He battled through his upbringing, got a degree, and was able to become so successful he was in charge of a company (Gateway Freight Services) which, at its apex, had 1,000 employees.”
His father’s illness turned Fenley’s family (which includes sister Grace and mother Gigi) upside down, and rocked his teenage years.
“His sickness really affected us a lot, but it’s how I got into sports,” he remembers. “When he was ill, all I could do was watch sports with him. We were big local sports fans. Since my dad went to Ole Miss, we are big Ole Miss fans as well. We watched hours and hours of sports.”
Even if Fenley didn’t know it at the time, a seed was planted and his interest in sports journalism grew from there.
“My dad had to fight for his life growing up, and then fight with cancer,” said Fenley. “The will to fight to be successful has lived on in me since.”
When Fenley was just 16, his father died from the disease and while the first few years were full of grief, he fought through it and realized he needed a new start. The new beginning he was looking for emerged in 2007, when Fenley joined the freshman class at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and a hobby hosting a show at the college radio station led to his current gig.
“There was a producer from the local NBC station there, and I had this urge to get on the air so bad,” Fenley said.
Fresh out of college, Fenley started writing sports copy for WXII in Winston-Salem, NC (a top market), and from there found himself in Spokane.
“So many kids want to get into sports, and I can’t tell you how many people doubted me and told me I couldn’t make it,” says Fenley. “There were so many critics and I used that as fuel.”
The critics that doubted Fenley must be having second thoughts now, as he has taken KREM by storm and is living his dream in the process.
“Every day we’re shooting, writing, and editing pieces with the players, stars and coaches that me and my dad used to watch every day,” Fenley. said Throughout it all, Fenley said his mom, Gigi, has been nothing but supportive through the good times and bad.
“She’s nurtured me through this process and believed in me,” he says. “She’s been my number one teammate through this battle, and is always on the frontlines fighting for my dreams.”
For now, Fenley’s happy in Spokane but has lofty goals. “I took the terror, the heartbreak, and the moments of pain in my dad’s fight with cancer and used it to conquer my dreams,” Fenley sums up. “It all comes down to him.”
Follow Fenley on Twitter @BryanFenley. If you’re in Spokane, check him out most nights on KREM-TV, Channel 2.