ExPats: Brendan Clark
Southern Tier Resident Celebrates Almost 30 Years Chronicling Southern Life
“I love Elmira and I loved growing up there,” says Brendan Clark, who spent an idyllic childhood living on Wall Street in West Elmira.
He attended Hendy Elementary School and lived in Elmira until 1980 when his parents, Bill and Judy Clark, built a family house on Estates Drive. Despite the move, Brendan was allowed to continue schooling with his Hendy classmates, advancing to Ernie Davis Middle School and then graduating from Elmira Free Academy in 1989.
“I never looked to get out of Elmira because I loved it,” he says.
At first, Brendan planned to go to college close to his beloved hometown.
“I grew up going to Syracuse games. One of my sisters went to Syracuse. My dream was always to play some sort of sport for Syracuse … That’s where I always thought I’d go.”
But, after speaking to E.F.A.’s assistant football coach at the time, a man who’d attended college at the University of South Carolina and had been captain of the U.S.C. football team in the 1970s, Brendan did some research and settled on the storied university, where he proceeded to play lacrosse and began his broadcast journalism studies.
He had decided on a career path early.
“You know when you meet with the (high school) counselors and they ask ‘what do you want to do with your life?’ I knew I wanted to do something with sports and I wanted to be on TV somehow.”
Brendan started working in the TV industry his sophomore year of college, interning at the local ABC and NBC affiliates in Columbia, S.C. He quickly gained experience and the interest of his supervisors, particularly at the NBC affiliate.
“I started interning there, working there, and doing everything I could – I was on TV a little bit, doing sports reporting. Then, the day I graduated from U.S.C., the NBC affiliate said, ‘The day you graduate you’re going full time.’ And I said ‘Okay!’”
“It was a tough decision for me because I had really planned to travel across the country – Take a couple months to myself and travel a little bit,” he explained. “But, back then, it was kinda like a now-or-never-type thing.”
“It’s funny because, I was waiting tables and working at the station part-time, so when I got offered full-time I thought, ‘This is it! I’ve made it! I’m on TV now.’ Then, I got my first paycheck and I went back to waiting tables,” he laughs.
Brendan spent a couple of years, from 1993 to ‘95, working at the NBC affiliate in Columbia before being in the right place at the right time to land a gig as the weekend sports anchor at the Charleston, S.C. NBC affiliate.
While there, Brendan asked about job openings and was immediately invited to send his resume tape to the station manager. Unbeknownst to him, the Charleston affiliate was adding a 5 p.m. show and expanding its staff.
“So, I sent them my tape and I got hired,” he said. “I came down here in 1995 for 20 grand a year and I thought I’d made it.”
He chuckles, remembering his youthful naiveté.
“They gave me a car. I didn’t have to pay for insurance or gas … Yeah, I thought I’d made it.”
Shortly after arriving in Charleston in 1996, Brendan volunteered to fill in as the weekend Sports Anchor on a trial basis. He did so well that he held the position until 2001 when he became the Sports Director, a position he held until 2007.
“Then I got into News in 2007 and I’ve been doing News longer than Sports now.”
He’s enjoyed his stint as a News Anchor, recently celebrating 27 years at WCBD – News2.
He recalls one of the most memorable stories he’s covered at the station, the 2015 Charleston Church massacre.
“I had come back from dinner break – I’d had dinner with my daughter, Sarah – and I asked my producer if anything was going on. She told me that there had been a shooting at a church downtown.”
“I don’t know what made me do it, but I grabbed a camera and I went down to the church.”
“You can imagine the scene down there. It was crazy and we really didn’t know what was going on at the time,” he said.
“We went live at 10 o’clock that night until about five in the morning. It was an emotional and sad scene.” Photo provided. Brendan Clark, WCBD – News2 anchor, behind the news desk.
Due to his quick-thinking and the skill of his team, WCBD – News2 won an Emmy Award for their coverage of the tragedy.
In addition to telling compelling human stories and getting to share them with the community, Brendan credits his colleagues with keeping his job so enjoyable after all these years.
Photos provided. (Top l. to r.) Brendan Clark enjoys a meal with high school friend Juris Mootz at his uncle Chuck Clark's Staff and Customer Christmas Party; Brendan and his daughter, Sarah and parents Judy and Bill Clark, enjoying family time; Brendan with his friend, head coach of the Colorado Avalanche hockey team, Jared Bednar, hoisting the Stanley Cup overhead. (Bottom l. to r.) Brendan and his daughter pose with the 2022 Stanley Cup; Brendan and his WCBD – News2 team on set; and Brendan posing with the Emmy Award he won in 2015 for his coverage of the Charleston Church shooting.
“What makes this job so great … are the people I work with,” he says. “I have my co-anchor, Carolyn Murray – She’s been in the business as long as I have. She’s been at this station since 2003. Our Chief Meteorologist Rob Fowler – he’s been here longer than I have! We’re a team. We’re a family. We’ve just been together so long that we know what each other’s thinking before it’s said.”
In addition to working with a team he knows has his back, Brendan appreciates the access to news his job has given him.
“I like being on the tip of the spear when it comes to information. I like being educated about what’s going on, not just locally, but nationally,” he says.
“I’m surprised a lot of the time, how much people don’t realize what’s going on around them that affects their lives.”
He also looks to inject a little grace and positivity into his newscast, hosting a weekly feature called Everyday Heroes.
“It’s a ‘good news’ story, to combat what can seem like an avalanche of bad news,” he explains. “It’s tough to watch the news sometimes so I like to talk about the good that people are doing, as well. I love doing it. I love interacting with people. I love telling people’s stories. That’s one of my favorite parts of the job.”
“I love my job. I don’t like the hours,” says the busy single father. Thankfully, he gets to meet up with Sarah, who’s currently attending college nearby, frequently.
Brendan relishes spending time with the entire Clark clan.
“My whole family comes here for Thanksgiving. That’s my holiday because the whole family comes here.”
He also tries to make it back to his hometown to spend time with his parents and childhood friends at least twice a year, including during Christmas.
“I don’t get back as much as I’d like to. It’s funny, I’ve been gone from Elmira as my permanent residence for 30 years and it’s still my hometown.”
Although Brendan’s been gone for a few decades, memories of Elmira are always close by.
“I love it up there and I love going back to see everyone,” he says. “You realize how special everyone is and how they shaped your life back then.”
“I have nothing but fond memories of Elmira. I miss it. I miss my parents. I miss being there.”
About this feature
ExPats catches up with former residents of the Southern Tier who've left the area to find out where they landed and how life is going. If you know a subject for a future ExPats feature, please send the name and contact information to email@example.com.