The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Art Fennell

Broadcast journalist Art Fennell was born and raised in Bennettsville, South Carolina. One of twelve children, he graduated from South Carolina State University with a communications degree.

Fennell began his broadcasting career as a radio announcer in Orangeburg, South Carolina. He went on to work in on-air positions at The South Carolina Educational Television Network; WBTW-TV in Florence, South Carolina; WCBD-TV in Charleston, South Carolina; WSAV-TV in Savannah, Georgia and WAVY-TV in Portsmouth, Virginia. Fennell then moved to WCAU NBC-10 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he served in various roles, including as anchor, reporter, host and producer. He was subsequently named principal anchor and managing editor for CN8 News on the Comcast Network based in Philadelphia, and hosted the nightly 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts. From 2006 to 2014, CN8-TV aired “Art Fennell Reports,” where Fennell was executive producer and anchor.

Fennell has also served on special assignments for TV-ONE and led the network’s live national coverage of “The Michael Jackson Memorial” from Los Angeles, “The Democratic National Convention” from Denver, “Election Night 2008” from Chicago, and the historic “Inauguration of President Barack Obama” from Washington, DC. In addition, he taught as an adjunct communications professor at Delaware State University.

Fennell served as president of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) from 1995 to 1997. He also served on the boards of UNITY: Journalists of Color and the NABJ, as well as president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, and founding president of the Hampton Roads Black Media Professionals. In 2001, he founded The Arthur Fennell Foundation, which is committed to raising funds and awareness to assist community based organizations dealing with disease, education and prevention in diverse, under-served populations.

Throughout his career, Fennell has been honored with more than seventy-five awards, including the prestigious Vanguard Award presented by the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. He also received the 2009 “Journalist of The Year Award” for his work in the Philadelphia region and the 2006 Emmy Award for “Outstanding News Anchor” in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Art Fennell was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 12, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.173

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/12/2014

Last Name

Fennell

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Blenheim High School

South Carolina State University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Arthur

Birth City, State, Country

Bennettsville

HM ID

FEN01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Africa, The Caribbean, West Coast, South

Favorite Quote

I Hope The Good News Is Yours.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Pennsylvania

Birth Date

1/10/1961

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Philadelphia

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Broadcast journalist Art Fennell (1961 - ) was a principal anchor and managing editor for CN8 News, and served as executive producer and anchor of CN8-TV’s 'Art Fennell Reports' from 2006 to 2014. He was president of the National Association of Black Journalists from 1995 to 1997.

Employment

Comcast NBC Universal

WCAU

WAVY

WSAV

WCBD

WBTW

SC ETV

Fennell Media

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
0,0:19364,249:41100,496:50502,631:50790,636:54390,691:55038,702:56470,713:56742,718:59598,771:60414,785:60754,791:67795,975:68434,986:71984,1070:73901,1120:77736,1166:85420,1341:86032,1352:90384,1448:90792,1456:91064,1461:99217,1550:99549,1555:102537,1607:103118,1616:106936,1681:107517,1689:108264,1701:109592,1719:110256,1728:112580,1771:113908,1798:121750,1862:124717,1913:130168,2037:131755,2065:136695,2085:137865,2126:144037,2212:144432,2218:145143,2230:147513,2263:151147,2328:151779,2337:152174,2343:159332,2415:162776,2464:163280,2471:164456,2489:175214,2647:175806,2656:176176,2663:176768,2674:179210,2718:184337,2758:188155,2813:188570,2819:190960,2827:191743,2839:192091,2845:192787,2855:193396,2863:194092,2875:198860,2950:202624,2980:203129,2986:206330,3031:209760,3054:210052,3059:210855,3070:211731,3086:212388,3097:212753,3103:214810,3110:216730,3132:217410,3141:218430,3158:228622,3325:231104,3370:231469,3376:234316,3461:246195,3638:246585,3645:246845,3650:248535,3766:268694,4037:269378,4049:269682,4054:269986,4059:270290,4064:270594,4069:270898,4074:276674,4195:278270,4218:284236,4268:285832,4310:288688,4360:295225,4435:295485,4440:295745,4445:307370,4639$0,0:1743,49:2905,61:4067,90:4648,99:6474,148:15982,224:20064,267:20392,272:21294,285:22934,334:27116,402:27444,407:28510,419:34488,453:37712,488:38336,496:38752,501:43910,565:44306,573:44768,581:45164,589:45890,602:48662,687:49058,695:49454,708:50378,724:50708,731:50972,736:51764,754:52292,765:61590,884:64910,895:66860,908:70030,918:70694,929:71524,940:72603,962:80715,1063:81315,1073:82365,1090:83415,1114:83865,1121:84840,1136:85665,1144:86265,1153:86565,1158:88140,1179:96684,1252:98644,1275:99036,1280:99722,1288:100408,1296:100800,1301:101878,1316:102662,1334:103152,1340:104622,1352:105896,1367:106484,1374:106974,1380:107856,1399:108542,1408:114076,1446:114607,1457:114961,1464:115374,1476:123380,1586:126496,1638:130266,1658:130784,1666:131080,1671:134968,1726:137514,1740:138036,1747:138645,1756:138993,1761:139863,1774:142442,1788:142790,1793:143225,1799:144878,1827:147314,1874:152112,1909:157970,2031
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Art Fennell's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Art Fennell lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Art Fennell describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Art Fennell describes his mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Art Fennell talks about his maternal grandparents' life in South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Art Fennell describes his maternal grandparents' occupations

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Art Fennell talks about his mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Art Fennell describes his paternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Art Fennell describes his paternal grandfather's occupation

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Art Fennell talks about his father's education

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Art Fennell remembers his family's ghost stories

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Art Fennell talks about how his parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Art Fennell describes his father's occupations

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Art Fennell describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Art Fennell lists his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Art Fennell describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Art Fennell remembers the tornado that destroyed his home, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Art Fennell remembers the tornado that destroyed his home, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Art Fennell describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Art Fennell remembers Blenheim High School in Blenheim, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Art Fennell remembers the ginger ale factory in Blenheim, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Art Fennell remembers the integration of Blenheim High School in Blenheim, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Art Fennell describes his early interests

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Art Fennell recalls his decision to attend South Carolina State College

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Art Fennell recalls his start in the broadcasting industry

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Art Fennell remembers working at WDIX Radio in Orangeburg, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Art Fennell talks about Max Robinson

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Art Fennell recalls the newscasters of his childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Art Fennell talks about his influential professors

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Art Fennell remembers studying under Eloise Usher Belcher

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Art Fennell recalls his start as a photographer

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Art Fennell talks about the civil rights history of Orangeburg, South Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Art Fennell remembers his training at SCE-TV in Columbia, South Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Art Fennell describes the lack of African American politicians in South Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Art Fennell remembers Armstrong Williams

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Art Fennell describes his experiences at WBTW-TV in Florence, South Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Art Fennell remembers anchoring at WSAV-TV in Savannah, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Art Fennell remembers moving to WAVY-TV in Portsmouth, Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Art Fennell talks about the Hampton Roads Black Media Professionals

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Art Fennell recalls founding the Hampton Roads Black Media Professionals

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Art Fennell talks about being recognized in public

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Art Fennell remembers joining WCAU-TV in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Art Fennell talks about the change in network affiliation at WCAU-TV

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Art Fennell describes his experiences as a talk show host

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Art Fennell recalls becoming president of the National Association of Black Journalists

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Art Fennell remembers hosting President Bill Clinton at the NABJ national convention

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Art Fennell recalls President Bill Clinton's arrival at the NABJ national convention

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Art Fennell talks about the speakers at the NABJ national convention

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Art Fennell recalls the founding of the NABJ Media Institute

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Art Fennell talks about his time at WCAU-TV

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Art Fennell remembers founding a media consulting company

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Art Fennell remembers his awards and accolades

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Art Fennell remembers developing 'Art Fennell Reports'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Art Fennell recalls his special assignments with TV One

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Art Fennell remembers the election of President Barack Obama

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Art Fennell talks about 'Murder in Memphis: Timeline to an Assassination'

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Art Fennell recalls the acquisition of NBC Universal by the Comcast Corporation

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Art Fennell remembers the cancellation of 'Art Fennell Reports'

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Art Fennell describes his plans for the future

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Art Fennell talks about his interest in photography

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Art Fennell reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Art Fennell talks about his family

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Art Fennell describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Art Fennell reflects upon his professional legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Art Fennell describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

7$3

DATitle
Art Fennell remembers the tornado that destroyed his home, pt. 1
Art Fennell remembers joining WCAU-TV in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Transcript
The most vivid childhood memory came in April of 1969 I think it was. It may have been '68 [1968] or--I think it was '68 [1968] or '69 [1969]. We had just gotten off the school bus coming home from school. And the weather was ominous, and it was just starting to rain very lightly. And me and my brother Dennis [Dennis Fennell] were the only ones on the bus. My other brothers--they had done an experiment. And I won't digress too far with this, away from the story, but they were doing an experiment back then in, in, in Bennettsville [South Carolina] and Blenheim [South Carolina], another small town, where they wanted to test integrating the schools. But for that year, they were asking for volunteers from families, to volunteer children to see if this would work in rural South Carolina. So my next two brothers, Jeffrey [Jeffrey Fennell] and Tommy Lee [Tommy Fennell], were volunteered by my parents [Sarah McLeod Fennell and James Fennell], because they were bigger and older, and they could probably deal with it better than Dennis and myself, who were much younger. So we were still in the segregated school. We were coming home from, from, from school this day, Dennis and I. We get off the bus, and we're walking down the dirt road. And it was this--clouds were getting a little dark. And as we got to the house, my mother was taking in the clothes, 'cause it was obviously just starting to rain. And she said, "Children, help me with these clothes to get 'em off the clothesline, because bad weather is coming." And as we were taking in those clothes, the winds began to pick up more and more and more. And, and it, it became fun for me and my brother because this was an adventure. But I remember going out on probably the last trip to the clothesline. And I looked across the cotton field, and I saw a tornado coming. It was as clear as day, and it was happening now, and it was coming right for us. And so we gathered the last bit of clothes, and we rushed into the house. And as we closed the door, because the winds were very strong, it took all three of us by the way to push and close that door from the force of the wind. But we did close it. And it stayed closed for about five to ten seconds before it exploded open, because at this point the tornado was right on top of us, and we couldn't close that door again. Windows began to explode, and air was all through the house. The tornado was on top of us. And so my mother grabbed me and my brother. And on a, a small little sofa--and I have a picture of us on this small sofa, and it was in the corner of the room by the stove--and she huddled us together like a mother hen gathering her biddies. And she said, "Pray children pray." And we started praying while that tornado sat down upon us. It destroyed our whole house. When it was over, there was nothing left in the house. The roof was gone. All of the other furnishings in the house were gone. The wall behind us was still there, but on the other side of the wall was nothing. But that sofa with myself, my brother, and my mother was still intact with us on it. And I remember looking up at as small boy, and I could see the sky. And I looked around, and we were in a daze, but we were unharmed, not a scratch. So I knew right then about the miracle of God. Because we were there praying and--you know, small children, you know, we were praying. But I was peeping, 'cause I wanted to see this phenomenon happening around us. But we were un- we were unhurt. And so that was--that was a very vivid moment for me, for everyone. The community--once the story had passed, people were rushing to our aid to see if we were okay, if anyone had been harmed, and to see how they could help, 'cause that's what communities do in those types of times.$$That's quite a story.$$Yeah.$$I mean--did you close your eyes while it was going? Did you (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Some of the time. I have to admit I was peeping. I remember peeping. But we had an old iron stove that was no more than five feet away from where I was. That was where we put the, the wood in and you know to warm the house. And I saw that old iron stove with the, the tin pipe that went up to the chimney started to bounce and rock as it was sitting there. It bounced like this, 'cause I was praying and peeping. And then I saw that stove lift off. I've never seen that stove again. It was five feet from me.$$Yeah, that's--$$So, yeah, I think after I saw that, I, I started praying harder than ever because I, I didn't wanna follow the direction of where that, that--where that stove had gone.$Nineteen ninety [1990] now, how, how did the op- opportunity come to--come to--come, come about to come to WCAU-TV in Philadelphia [Pennsylvania]?$$Well, I, I was doing the news one night and I got a phone call. And it was from a gentleman named Paul Gluck, who had been visiting his mother who lived in the Hampton Roads [Virginia] area. Paul Gluck I didn't know from a can of paint, but he was the news director in Philadelphia. And he said, "I've watched you; I, I like what I see; when is your contract over in Virginia [WAVY-TV, Portsmouth, Virginia]?" It just so happens that my contract was coming to an end in the next couple of months, and I told him. And so he said, "I'd like to bring you to Philadelphia to take a look around and to see what we do here, and to see if it's something that you and I can come to terms with." And so I do, came to Philadelphia and, and loved it. This was big time TV. This was a completely different animal than anything that I had been accustomed to up until that point. But at least for me by then I'd already worked in several other TV markets. I was used to moving around. I was used to starting from scratch, and so that experience helped me to, to get acclimated in Philadelphia early. I was brought on as the, the five o'clock evening news anchor. I was young, but didn't carry myself in a young way. It became clear that I knew my way around a story in the field, and I knew my way around the anchor desk in the studio, 'cause I'd--by that point I was seasoned. And I wasn't intimidated, but yet, again, I didn't present myself in an arrogant type of way. One thing about Philadelphia that I learned very early, and it's--was true then, and it's true now. In this town, if people like you they will let you know. And if they don't like you, they will let you know. And if they don't like you, you are not long for this city. I'm fortunate that they like me, and so I was able to survive. And as they say, the rest is history. I've had a very good tenure here.