Today, Nov. 5, is the 40th anniversary of NPR's Morning Edition. Back in 1979, Bob Edwards was the first host of the show, and the first story was filed by Robert Siegel about the former Rhodesia. Today, nearly 13.1 million listeners tune in to Morning Edition weekly and 829 member stations carry the show — WBUR being one of the earliest member stations in the nation to broadcast it.
In 1980, WBUR began to receive programming from NPR via satellite. By 1982, WBUR had established its identity as a news station, with NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered airing weekdays along with local news programming produced by a staff of young reporters.
A decade later, in 1992, Bob Oakes became the host of WBUR's Morning Edition. Prior to WBUR, he had spent a decade at Boston's then all-news station WEEI and covered national issues for the CBS Radio Network.
One of the most well-known and respected journalists in New England, Bob Oakes is who Boston wakes up to every morning. So much so that when Bob took some time off about a year ago, even the front page of the internet started worrying.
Inside WBUR caught up with him before his event today at WBUR CitySpace — taking a look at the year ahead in the station's coverage of the presidential election — for a quick peek into the life of Bob Oakes!
Which was the very first presidential election that you covered as a journalist?
Oakes: The first presidential election I covered was as a college journalist in 1976. My first interview with a President was Jimmy Carter in March 1977 when he came to Clinton, Massachusetts to hold a town hall after he was elected. I got to ask one question. I was so nervous.
What time do you wake up to get into the station to host WBUR’s Morning Edition?
Oakes: My alarm fires off at 2:30 am. Most mornings I press the snooze button for 5 extra minutes. I love my job. I hate my alarm clock.
Over the years at the mic, who are a few of your most memorable interviews?
Oakes: Candidates for Governor and US Senate. Presidential candidates. Barack Obama as a candidate for re-election. But people that I most remember would be Governor Deval Patrick for his honesty and humanity; US Senator Ted Kennedy for the challenge of getting him to stay on topic and actually answer the question you asked instead of talking about the topic he wanted to discuss; and the late author Kurt Vonnegut. He was my 'college author hero,' and it was such a thrill to speak to him. I interviewed him several times on that one day: for Morning Edition, for the former WBUR program 'The Connection,' and then live in a theater that same night. It was seventh heaven for me. I got him to autograph several books for me too!
What is your favorite pastime?
Oakes: Fly fishing is my escape — there's nothing quite like sitting in a canoe deep in the woods for letting the stress of life melt away. But this summer, I grew a pretty decent vegetable garden. My best crop was peppers - and HOT peppers. Right now I'm fermenting both red and green hot sauce from my harvest. And I'll tell ya, this stuff is really HOT.
What is your favorite place to escape when you’ve got some time off? Is it a tie between Maine and Nova Scotia?
Oakes: I go to Maine to fish and spend time with my longtime fly fishing buddy, a now-retired BU Journalism Professor. I go to Nova Scotia to escape and read. The place I go to has no TV and blessedly slow internet service. I listen to local radio for Canadian news, Red Sox scores and to read a good spy novel.
If you're as big a fan of Bob Oakes as we are, head over to WBUR CitySpace tonight at 6:30 p.m. for a free event and see him LIVE with our senior news correspondent Kimberly Atkins and senior political reporter Anthony Brooks to discuss the 2020 presidential election, including issues most vital to voters, what to expect from Democratic candidates & President Trump's strategy for re-election.