The assertiveness of journalism pushed Femi Abebefe to go after his goals and set his own path.
“Most jobs in other fields involve learning theories and how to apply them,” he said. “The beauty of journalism is that from minute one, you are doing the same thing in school as later on the job.”
Abebefe, who graduated from Western Washington University in fall 2012 with a bachelor's degree in journalism, was hired at KTVZ NewsChannel 21 in early September as a reporter and producer in Bend, Ore.
At the show, he does general-assignment reporting and writing. He also co-anchors a sports segment on Friday nights with the lead sports anchor, he said.
Writing for The Western Front, Klipsun magazine and The Planet magazine at Western taught him skills he applied to the weekly television show, Whatcom Sports Report.
Abebefe co-created Whatcom Sports Report with co-anchor and Western student Emily Petterson when he interned at the Center for New Media, a Bellingham media group. The show is a weekly sports recap covering a variety of sporting events at 7 p.m. Wednesdays.
“We must have spent 40-50 hours a week together tirelessly working on the show and that wasn’t enough," Petterson said. "So, I would say the biggest challenge I saw him overcome was time.”
With the constant weekly deadlines for the show, there was no time to mess around, he said.
“At a smaller market, you are in the trenches,” Abebefe said. “You are doing all of it and learning to do all of it.”
His journalism experiences at Western and Whatcom Sports Report prepared him for many aspects of broadcast journalism, he said.
Abebefe’s natural talents combined with his determination made him successful, said Suzanne Blais, Center for New Media's executive director.
“He stepped up and committed himself to work outside the box because there is no broadcast major here. He did all of these things on his own time,” Blais said.
As a student journalist, Abebefe initially struggled with approaching strangers. He felt awkward talking to people he didn’t know and didn’t want to bother them, he said. He would go to a neighborhood to hunt for stories and felt he was lurking around looking for people to talk to. He overcame his fear with practice and learned to trust his journalistic instinct, he said.
“Worst case, a person says they can’t talk," Abebefe said. "But you just move on.”
One of the factors in Abebefe's success was finding a mentor from the journalism field who could connect him with other journalism contacts to help with his job hunt, he said. These connections were valuable because they provided ideas for what he could improve on, from the eyes of a veteran journalist.
“In this industry, you need someone who has been there for a while,” he said.
Abebefe’s first mentor was the person responsible for his start in journalism. In high school, he shadowed a sports reporter from The Daily Herald in Everett and knew journalism was what he wanted to do. He realized early on his ambitions to play sports professionally were not attainable. His sports passion remained and he knew he wanted a career connected with it, he said.
Abebefe advises aspiring journalists to get an internship, practice writing and read more to improve writing skills.
“It doesn’t matter what hurdles you have in front of you,” Abebefe said. “You take one hurdle at a time and you’ll get there.”
This mentality propelled him into his broadcasting career, from a school without a broadcasting focus, he said. The news reporting he does at KTVZ helps him see the value in telling different types of stories, he said.
His goal is to cover a major sporting event like the Super Bowl by hosting a pregame show, working the sidelines or doing play-by-plays.
As he continues on in his journalistic career, Abebefe hopes for his broadcasting career to become more sports-focused.