SEATTLE — Femi Abebefe thought his broadcasting career would take him all over the country.
Instead, it led him back home.
Abebefe, a 2008 graduate of Cascade High School in Everett, landed a job at KOMO 4 News over the summer as the Seattle television station’s weekend sports anchor/reporter. At 29 years old, he is one of the youngest sportscasters in the Seattle market.
“It really means a lot,” Abebefe said of coming back home. “It’s one of those things that didn’t really hit me until I got here. Just the overwhelming amount of either text messages, Facebook messages … showing that they were watching me. Or I was at some event or a bar and they were like, ‘Whoa, I know that dude!’”
As surreal as the homecoming has been for the Everett native, Abebefe is the first to admit he wasn’t clamoring to return to the Puget Sound region. Quite the contrary, actually.
“I mean, I love it here and I love my family and all that,” he said. “But, I don’t know, maybe through the six years away that I’ve grown to be more independent. … I said, ‘Hey, I have this exploring mind, maybe I want to live in a different area or region.’
“It’s funny that’s always been my mindset, but I just keep on moving closer and closer to home.”
Abebefe, a 2012 graduate of Western Washington, initially enrolled in the school’s department of journalism as a public-relations major. An avid sports fan growing up, he knew he wanted to be around athletics going forward.
But in what fashion? He wasn’t sure.
In January 2011, when Abebefe was a junior at Western, he landed an internship at the Center for New Media, a production company in Bellingham.
It was there that Abebefe began to learn the fundamentals of broadcast journalism, including how to shoot stand-ups, b-roll and man-on-the-street interviews.
Through the internship, he discovered his passion.
“The more I did it, I was like, ‘This is pretty fun. This is interesting,’” Abebefe said.
Abebefe’s enthusiasm and passion were apparent from the get-go, said Suzanne Blais, who worked at the Center of New Media at the time and is now Western’s digital media production manager. She fondly recalled a story Abebefe agreed to do about stand-up paddleboards.
“It was in the fall and it was really cold and he was in the middle of Lake Padden falling in again, and again, and again,” Blais said. “It was like, ‘OK, he’s bound for glory, because he just isn’t stopping.’”
That persistence has served Abebefe well. Since WWU doesn’t have a broadcast program, he had to create his own opportunities.
“What makes Western a little different is there isn’t anything structured for people that are interested in broadcast,” Blais said. “But it’s open enough that if you have an interest in it, you can make things happen for yourself. But you have to be the kind of person that is driven and knows pretty much what they want and can find somebody and is not afraid to ask them for help and put themselves in the middle of things and jump in when you don’t know what you’re doing, but say ‘It’s OK, I’m going to learn.’ ”
Along with one of his classmates, Emily Petterson, Abebefe hosted the “Whatcom Sports Report,” a weekly studio show. He even did some play-by-play of high school sporting events around Bellingham, most notably following the Lynden High School boys and girls teams to the Yakima SunDome for the Class 2A state basketball championships.
Upon graduating from Western, Abebefe compiled a reel to apply for jobs. He was raw, and he knew it, but was eager to jump into the business.
Maybe a little too eager.
“I may have sent that reel out to 100 different stations, half of which I was under-qualified for,” Abebefe said with a chuckle.
He eventually landed a job at KTVZ News 21 in Bend, Oregon, in September of 2013. He was hired as a news reporter, but his bosses were aware that his career goal was to work in sports journalism and they allowed him to work one day a week on sports stories.
After two years as a new reporter, Abebefe was named the sports director at KTVZ in 2015. The following year, he moved on to KHQ, the NBC affiliate in Spokane.
Abebefe spent three years in Spokane, trying his hand at everything from play-by-play to anchoring to in-depth feature stories.
That experience led to him landing the job at KOMO this summer.
AYE SEATTLE, WE GOT A DEAL: After a 6-year journey, I’m finally coming home. I’m officially the new Weekend Sports Anchor/Reporter at @komonews in Seattle. I can’t wait to join an awesome team while working in a city I love. My first day is Monday and I could not be more excited! pic.twitter.com/KALfKE2kVg— Femi Abebefe (@FemiAbebefe) August 8, 2019
Along with being one of the youngest sportscasters in the Seattle market, Abebefe is the only African-American sports anchor working among the four major stations. That’s something he said doesn’t cross his mind often, but when it does, it gives him great pride.
“I mean, heck, (with) a guy like (longtime KOMO weatherman) Steve Pool retiring, everyone loved Steve Pool and when you see that in the 90s, it’s like ‘Whoa, an African-American man on television.’ You gravitate toward that person,” Abebefe said. “You don’t see yourself, but you see someone who looks like you on TV.”
Abebefe said he still hasn’t fully grasped the magnitude of his return home, but now that he’s here, he’s glad to be back.
One of his biggest “pinch me” moments came on the sideline of the Cascade-Lake Stevens high school football game on Oct. 18 at Everett Memorial Stadium, the same field where Abebefe played as an all-area tackle for the Bruins in 2007.
“I still have ‘Everett, WA native’ in my twitter bio because I’m proud to be from Everett. Obviously that’s going to be a soft spot in my heart,” said Abebefe, who served as class vice president his senior year at Cascade. “Those were some fun years there. You move on and all that, but you never forget those times.”