It was the summer of 2006 and, as a student of fiction writing and journalism, Fenoglio was hungry for a truly unique opportunity – eager to cut his teeth reporting on-air. One of his mentors, a former news director from Chicago, invited him to join a somewhat radical project.
“The largest arts event in the country has a radio station and no one is reporting the news on it. It’s risky, and you might hate it, but if you want a crash course in real broadcast news, I’ll give it to you,”
Fenoglio jumped at the opportunity, and a few months later he helped launch and co-produce news operations for BMIR 94.5 FM, the official radio station for the event known as Burning Man. For the next two weeks, broadcasting to over 50,000 listeners in the unrelenting heat and dust, he covered a multitude of human-interest stories, and interviewed some of the nation’s premier artists and musicians. He has been hooked on journalism ever since.
His reports from Black Rock helped him secure an internship with the Chicago Bureau of NBC News later that year. As the only intern for the entire bureau, covering thirteen states throughout the Midwest, he was given an immense amount of responsibility, assisting reporters as they covered local stories of national interest: immigration marches, police brutality, protests, local elections and even President Obama’s early campaign for the White House.
Eventually, the recession began to take its toll on the economy and the news biz. Fenoglio realized that if he was going to survive industry-wide cutbacks he’d have to get creative and adapt. He enlisted help from as many people as possible to learn new skills. Soon enough, in addition to his writing and reporting, he had learned to shoot, edit, produce and sell his own news stories. A newly minted one-man-band, multimedia journalist, he took on as many reporting opportunities as possible for various media companies throughout Chicago.
In 2010, he decided it was time for another change. Opting for gentler climes and new challenges, he packed up his freelance life and moved to Los Angeles.
Fenoglio says, “What I love about my work is that it is all about people. News is about people. And on occasion, when a person gives me a peek into their life and allows me to share it with others, my hope is that somehow we can all understand each other a little better. Everyone has a story that matters and I get to help them tell it.”
And finally, that’s beginning to happen more frequently. Late last fall, after building his career mostly out-of-pocket, he got a big break. He was approached by France 24 International News (English edition) to be their go-to reporter for the West Coast. Shortly thereafter, his reporting garnered the attention of CBS News. While it’s still freelance, he now has the chance to cover everything from politics and lifestyle to technology and the environment for both networks.
When asked about how WMS has influenced his life, John said, “There’s this African proverb that says, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ WMS helped me understand the importance of community; of feeling connected to something bigger. The acceptance and support, and the lessons I learned there have had a profoundly meaningful impact on my life today.”
Taking his WMS-inspired lessons of teamwork and connection with him, Fenoglio will soon be joining a new community in San Francisco and starting a new chapter in his life as a full-time news anchor at KRON Channel 4.
See John in action below: