As a 24-year-old reporter, Bryan Llenas knows something about covering big news. He had already reported stories from across the country when, last February, Fox asked him to cover Pope Francis I’s election in Rome.
Llenas career with Fox started in the summer of 2009 with an internship with Fox News Channel University in New York, his hometown.
On his first day working on Studio B at the Fox Report with Shepard Smith, Michael Jackson died. Llenas ended up working an 18-hour-long shift -- running scripts to Smith, cutting video, and doing anything the program needed him to do in order to cover the story.
“It was an experience that acquainted me with the staff and the process quickly,” he wrote in an email. “What a day! What a night! What an experience!”
Later in 2009, Fox offered Llenas a position as a multimedia journalist for a new website concept: FoxNewsLatino.com. The job required him to write for the website, shoot and edit stories, take photos and do live TV reports. The website’s concept was to cover Latino news in English.
“I had fully intended to go directly to a local television station in a small market upon graduation, and work my way up,” Llenas said. But he knew the offering was a big opportunity for him. “Fox was too much to turn away.”
He started working for the website in September of 2010, after he graduated from the School of Communication with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism and political science.
His work has required him to travel widely to cover stories such as the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., or the arrest of an American marine in Mexico. However, he said his biggest assignment came when he was elected from the 12-member staff of the Fox News Latino team to cover the election of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new pope.
Llenas said he considers the election of the pope the most important story that he has covered because of its historical significance and importance for the 1.2 billion Roman Catholics of the world.
“As a Dominican-American, a Catholic, and someone reporting stories for the Latino community as a whole, there was nothing more important or more satisfying than being immersed in the sights and sounds of a moment that will never be forgotten by millions,” he said.
Before he traveled to Rome, Llenas said he prepared himself by doing research on the church, the conclave process and the leading candidates. He went as far as writing profiles on the top five Latino candidates for Pope.
According to Llenas, during his time in Rome, he reported on four live-web shows with Fox host Rick Sanchez, shot his own videos, edited his own stories and wrote for the website. The trip also gave him the opportunity to do his first live television reports from the field. He broadcast the inaugural mass of Pope Francis for two consecutive hours with Fox anchor Gregg Jarrett. He also had his first televised, national primetime appearance on the Fox Report with Shepard Smith.
After his live coverage, Smith congratulated Llenas for his job, and said he was “a reporter born at this network.”
After Llenas finished the two-hour live broadcast, he posted a message on Twitter saying that he would never forget that day. He wrote about the excitement of the inauguration of the conclave.
“The night the white smoke came flowing out of the Sistine Chapel Chimney, I had been running on 30 hours straight with no sleep and had just finished my video hit with Rick Sanchez at the Fox bureau in Rome … Less than 30 minutes after reporting with Rick Sanchez, shouts of ‘White Smoke! We have White Smoke!’ echoed throughout the bureau halls.”
He said he grabbed his camera, his tripod, strapped a microphone across his chest and ran in the rain towards St. Peter's Square, where the crowd waited.
“[I] watched as the words ‘Habemus Papam’ rang from the Papal Balcony of the Vatican,” he said. “When it was announced that Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was named pope, the crowd went silent in shock for a few moments until they announced his name: ‘Papa Francesco.’ The crowd cheered ‘Francesco! Francesco!’ at the realization that the new pope had chosen a name no other pope had chosen before him.”
Professor Ellen Fleysher, one of Llenas’ professors at the School of Communication, remembered Llenas vividly from his classes and his work at UMTV. She described him as smart, curious and considerate of other people.
“Bryan is now beginning what promises to be a major career as a broadcast journalist,” Fleysher said. “I think the future looks very bright for him.”