Joe Musgrove’s return to San Diego to pitch for the Padres was a staple storyline in their recent division title season.
Ryan Finley knows it well.
Now Finley is living the same kind of dream.
The University of San Diego High School graduate, who continued his journalism education at the University of Arizona and became a sportswriter and editor in Tucson, is coming home as well.
On Jan. 9, he’ll start work as sports editor of The San Diego Union-Tribune after holding the same title at the Arizona Daily Star for almost nine years. He succeeds Jay Posner, whose last day was Friday.
“Tucson’s great, and the Star has been home for nearly half my life, [but] the opportunity to return to San Diego and work at my hometown paper was too good to pass up,” Finley told Times of San Diego. “My mom lives there, as does a sister, a brother, their spouses and five of my nieces and nephews.”
Finley, 42, follows in the footsteps of his father, Bill Finley, a sports staffer at The San Diego Union and sister afternoon Tribune from 1965 to 1984.
“Ryan doesn’t need my advice, but we talked about [the U-T job],” Bill said this week via email. “I asked if he needed any typewriter ribbons or my old Thomas Brothers map book from the ’80s. He said they don’t use those anymore? Honestly, I read both papers every day and the U-T made a great hire here.”
Says Ryan: “The U-T has been a part of my life since the day I learned how to read, and in many ways it’s the paper that I compare all others to — even now. I can’t wait to get started.”
Ryan’s twin brother, Pat, is in the newspaper game as well — covering the Bears for the Chicago Sun-Times. (Pat interned at the U-T during grad school 20 years ago.)
Ryan and his wife, Kim, have three young boys — 8-year-old twins and an 11-year-old.
U-T staff was informed of the hire earlier this week. A public announcement is planned for January, says editor in chief Jeff Light.
The elder Finley covered the Padres, San Diego State Aztecs and national college basketball. Ryan will boast a deep bench of veteran beat writers plus the 76-year-old dean of San Diego sports — Nick Canepa.
Ryan says he knows Canepa through his parents and worked alongside prep sportswriter John Maffei when Ryan was part of the North County Times’ office in Temecula just after college.
“Jay and I communicated for years via email and Twitter, helping each other out if someone needed a photo,” Ryan said, noting how plenty of San Diegans end up playing collegiately at Arizona.
The past and future U-T sports editors commiserated about the Padres, he said, “but we hadn’t really talked until the interview process began.”
He added: “I certainly hope I can lean on Jay, and he has been gracious enough to offer as much support as I need. … I’ve been struck already by how he championed his reporters. If you worked for Jay, Jay had your back.”
An old biography told of how Ryan Finley, as a USDHS senior, was sports editor of El Cid, the campus paper.
He placed in the top 10 of over 200 entries at the Greater San Diego high school write-off, the bio said.
“Always a sports fan, Ryan had the rare opportunity to be the youngest journalist covering the 1998 California State Basketball Championships in Sacramento, … contributing to both El Cid and the local Southern Cross,” the Catholic diocese paper.
Once reaching Tucson, Finley was hired to the [University Daily] Wildcat staff, the only freshman at the sports desk. His first year at the paper saw Ryan cover everything from lacrosse to hockey to men’s basketball.
Between the months of October and March, Ryan covered the Arizona Icecats, the school’s hockey team. The experience saw Finley make frequent appearances as a between-periods guest on KNST (790 AM) while covering the team. Ryan was also the youngest journalist at the press table for Arizona men’s basketball games, adding feature stories to Monday’s coverage.
Finley says it’s too early to talk about coverage plans.
“I’d like to write periodically, if it helps the section,” he said. “I will co-host the Hot Lava podcast (about the Padres with Kevin Acee), which I consider a perk of the job.”
He says he hasn’t missed an episode over the years. (It began in 2018.)
“I think the Padres have the pieces to be VERY good, again,” Finley said. “For someone who grew up going to games during the ‘Fire Sale’ era, I’m fascinated by their go-for-broke approach and willingness to spend.”
Proud papa Bill, who went into public relations after his U-T years, retired five years ago from a job at the University of Arizona.
“I now work with the Tucson Festival of Books and write a book column for the Daily Star,” he said. “Remember the old joke? Journalism is like leukemia — it gets in your blood.”
Ryan told of his dad being excited for him.
Wrote Ryan: “Did he really send you some quote about typewriters?!”