Bob Sands sat down with a smile as his piercing blue eyes lit up. “I guess this is sort of my exit interview,” he said with a chuckle. And, he’s right. After 49 years in broadcasting, Bob Sands is signing off for the last time.
Since getting his start in 1970, Sands has forged an impressive career, working for 10 radio stations and seven television stations across five markets. His reporting has earned him more than 100 awards in all categories; investigative news, features, enterprise, you name it. He’s a past president of the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters and the Oklahoma City News Broadcasters. He’s also been inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame. And for the first time, he’s no longer looking forward to that next story. Instead, he’s looking back on an amazing career.
“When I started we were brazen, we didn’t know boundaries,” said Sands. “We did anything to get the story…but, it’s all different now. It used to be a lot more fun, more challenging and interesting. Now, everything is orchestrated with talking points…it’s a closed world now.”
That brazen and boundless search for the truth has led Sands to covering some of the biggest stories of the last five decades.
His first investigative news story involved the death of a young union activist who worked for Kerr-McGee named Karen Silkwood. Sands went on to cover corruption in the Oklahoma Industries Authority that led to the creation of the Oklahoma Open Records Act, which Sands helped write. He uncovered a housing scandal involving organized crime. He broke a piece on an illegal prostitution and gambling ring that was also selling guns to the Irish Republican Army. He worked with the Oklahoma Journal Record to uncover patient abuse and even deaths in Oklahoma State Veterans Homes that brought about important reforms. Sands exposed an active Klu Klux Klan group in Moore during the 70s. And, he worked with NBC Nightly News covering the bombing of the Oklahoma City Murrah Building.
Today, there are times when Sands doesn’t recognize the profession that’s defined his life. “The line between opinion, entertainment and journalism has blurred to where you can’t tell where one ends and the other begins.”
Added Sands, “there are late-night comedians who do a better job of informing the American public about important issues than broadcast news.”
But, Sands has fondness for public broadcasting, and, for OETA, which has been his home the last 14 years.
“Working for OETA has been challenging in more ways than I can count,” said Sands. “But, it’s also been rewarding, and an honor.”
Added Sands, “public television is by far my favorite place to have worked. It’s creative, original and unabashedly honest. I’ve never had so much creative freedom in my life. It’s a great way to end a career.”
And, Sands had some words of wisdom for future journalists.
“This is still an honorable profession, but, it’s up to you to keep it that way. Be prepared to have your ideals challenged. Fight against having your ethics and integrity compromised. And never take ‘no’ from someone who can’t say ‘yes’.”
As for his future? Sands is ready for retirement.
“I want to do and see things,” said Sands. “I’ve done lots of things in my career, but, I still feel like I’ve missed out on life. I want to enjoy my family…and stop having to watch the news!”
OETA provides essential educational content and services that inform, inspire and connect Oklahomans to ideas and information that enrich our quality of life. We do this by consistently engaging Oklahomans with educational and public television programming, providing educational training and curriculum, outreach initiatives and online features that collectively encourage lifelong learning. For more information about education curriculum and programs, local productions, digital television, community resources and show schedules explore OETA.tv or visit us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.