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Friday was Bob Oakes' last day as host of WBUR's Morning Edition. He'll return to reporting, his 'first love'13:00
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WBUR's Bob Oakes. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
WBUR's Bob Oakes. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Cue the music from the long-running Broadway musical "RENT," and try to sing along to my own edition, please:

Seven hundred thirty-one thousand commuting miles ... 731,000 pains in butt ...

Truth is: I love "RENT" — and almost all other Broadway musicals. I can’t count how many productions I’ve seen over the years with my wife, Martha. We met a long time ago, while I worked on a play in college.

While I can’t precisely count the number of shows I've hosted, I can try to add up all the commuting miles from home to WBUR since the early 1990s, when I first came to our radio newsroom.

That 731,000-mile commute equals over 29 times around the planet. It's roughly like going to the moon and back, and to the moon once more.

It's why I’ve worn out five cars, and it's probably why my butt is always sore. Ha!

And now, it's time to give up the daily commute.

Friday was my last day as the host of WBUR’s Morning Edition. Come Monday, the great Rupa Shenoy, a wonderful journalist, will take over.

This day has been coming for a year. That's when WBUR CEO Margaret Low offered me the opportunity to return to reporting, my first and greatest love. I jumped at the chance.

To you, WBUR listeners, it has been a privilege to be your morning voice and to serve you each day.

I have corresponded, emailed, spoken or met thousands of you over the years, and I thank each and every one of you for your gentle, occasionally tough, and always genuine support.

Bob Oakes kicking off a WBUR fundraiser. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Bob Oakes kicking off a WBUR fundraiser. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

As this glorious city of Boston is in an intense transition socially, economically and politically, it’s time for Morning Edition to transition as well.

The continuous transitions of life hit home in a funny way for me a few days ago as I was shuffling through some papers jamming my WBUR files.

Years ago, a local teacher of elementary school children, who was a listener of WBUR, gave her kids an exercise: draw a picture of what you think Bob Oakes looks like. Some of the drawings were hilarious, and some even came close: beard, mustache, balding head and all. And then came my realization: these kids are now all adults, and some could now be gray and balding themselves.

There have been so many memorable moments over the years. It’s difficult to choose the most important. There was the trip to Vietnam with WBUR’s Shannon Dooling and the Massachusetts Marines who were among the last helicoptered off the roof of the U.S. Embassy when Saigon fell. We listened as they reflected and reminisced.

They cried, and I cried, when I sat in a living room in Roxbury with the parents of a young child killed the day before in a tragic, random, senseless shooting.

Morning Edition host Bob Oakes (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Morning Edition host Bob Oakes (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

There have been many interviews with many politicians and candidates. I recall the late and great House Speaker Tip O’Neill knocking a microphone out of my hand while I was walking along with him asking questions that were apparently too tough.

There was the mini-debate of gubernatorial candidates in the Morning Edition studio, in which the room full of candidates got so raucous, I had to threaten to shut off their microphones if they didn’t quiet down. They followed the order.

And then there was the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, whose voice still occasionally rings in my head. He was a master at deflecting hard reporter questions to make the points he wanted to make that often had nothing to do with the question asked.

A few years back, after a tough campaign season interview with me ended, I told him a story about how his office helped me navigate an issue with Federal Communications Commission decades earlier when I was a college student trying to get a then-needed federal broadcast license.

I told him, “So you see, you are partially responsible for me being in the business.” Kennedy, paused, leaned back in his chair, and said, in his thick Kennedy/Hyannisport accent, “Well, ah, I’ll keep that in mind, the next time, ah, you’re asking me questions, I ah, really don’t want to answer.”

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In this photo taken in the 1980s, then-New Hampshire Public Radio reporter Sam Fleming, far left, and Bob Oakes, far right, then a CBS radio station reporter, interview a politician at the New Hampshire State House in Concord, N.H. (Courtesy Sam Fleming)
In this photo taken in the 1980s, then-New Hampshire Public Radio reporter Sam Fleming, far left, and Bob Oakes, far right, then a CBS radio station reporter, interview a politician at the New Hampshire State House in Concord, N.H. (Courtesy Sam Fleming)

My thanks to Margaret Low for the offer allowing me to return to reporting and to previous WBUR General Managers for hiring me and keeping me around, Jane Christo, Peter Fiedler, Paul La Camera and Charlie Kravetz.

A huge thanks to my longtime friend and colleague former News and Program Director Sam Fleming for your support and encouragement.

Thank you to all the great and supremely talented WBUR journalists I’ve been lucky to work with over the years.

Morning Edition host Bob Oakes with a few of his fellow WBUR colleagues, including (clockwise from top left) Martha Bebinger, Deborah Becker, Yasmin Amer and Sara Rose Brenner. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Morning Edition host Bob Oakes with a few of his fellow WBUR colleagues, including (clockwise from top left) Martha Bebinger, Deborah Becker, Yasmin Amer and Sara Rose Brenner. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

To you, WBUR listeners, please transfer all the support you’ve graciously given me over the years to your new Morning Edition host, Rupa Shenoy.

And now this already way-too-long goodbye to my Morning Edition perch must end.

Allow me to go out by quoting a line longtime CBS Radio and TV anchor Charles Osgood liked to say: “See you on the radio.”

I like to think Osgood had public radio at heart there, as it’s the perfect maxim for the way we all listen to WBUR.


Editor's Note: The audio atop this post features Bob Oakes' final minutes in the host chair. He speaks with longtime colleague, WBUR's Robin Young, about his work through the years.

Related:

Bob Oakes Twitter Senior Correspondent
Bob Oakes has been WBUR's Morning Edition anchor since 1992.

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