It’s a big day for our very own Sam Baker. The local host of "Morning Edition" is marking his 25th anniversary at KERA.
So much has changed in Dallas-Fort Worth in 25 years – mayors, skylines, traffic.
At least one thing hasn’t.
When you tune into KERA each weekday morning, a familiar voice greets you.
For 25 years, Sam Baker has brought North Texans the news that’s defined a generation – from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to Hurricane Katrina to this summer’s deadly police shootings in Dallas.
He’s also moderated debates and for several years he hosted a show on KERA-TV, "On The Record."
A smooth, engaging voice
Bob Ray Sanders was a panelist on the program – he worked for several years at KERA and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
“I was immediately jealous of him,” Sanders said. “Because of his voice. … It was so effortless and it was so smooth and it was so engaging.”
But Sam Baker has more than just a great voice.
“I don’t know how many people realize just what a great interviewer he is,” Sanders said. “It’s consistently smooth, on target, but very objective.”
There’s this interview with Judge Barefoot Sanders, who oversaw Dallas school desegregation:
“You seem to be one of those people who seem to be in the right place at the right time when it comes to important issues or decisions that affect society,” Sam asked the judge. “Do you ever wonder: ‘Why you?’”
A superb writer
“You can’t tell how he feels about a subject, hearing him interview,” Bob Ray Sanders says. “That is something that is lost in a lot of journalism today. … No one could have imagined that there was a person out there that could be as good as Sam is and who also just happened to be African-American. And came in. And there was no fanfare about that. It was just this is who he is.”
Yolette Garcia worked at KERA in 1991 when Sam was hired from a public radio station in Tulsa.
“There are two things I admire about Sam,” she says. “First, he is a superb writer, especially under pressure. Secondly, I don’t know how he gets up at pre-dawn hours every morning to do the news for years.”
'Calm presence in my crazy mornings'
Sam Baker never calls in sick. During ice storms, he drives on slick roads in the middle of the night to get to the KERA studio. For Sam, a Beaumont native, it’s simply a dedication to the news. And it’s a dedication to his audience – listeners like Carole Reardon.
“I came to North Texas in 1994, so that’s how long I’ve been listening to KERA,” Reardon said. “In those early years, I was a working mom, and Sam Baker was the calm presence in my crazy mornings.”
Reardon just returned to Texas after a year away in South Carolina.
“The first morning I woke up in Texas, I tuned the clock radio into KERA and heard Sam’s voice,” she said. “And that, just like the barbecue I had the night before, told me I was home.”
Dallas-Fort Worth has a rich radio history, yet Sam Baker stands out, Bob Ray Sanders says.
“But very few people have been in one place so long and kept that continuity,” he said. “And to do that for that long and still have that freshness is amazing to me. And I know the community loves it.”
Delivering the news with his own distinct style – that’s the Sam Baker we’ve all known and trusted for 25 years.
Video: Sam Baker in 1995
Video: Sam Baker in 2009 -- The Economy: Facing the Mortgage Crisis
Note: Watch this video on desktop.
Video: Sam Baker in 2008 -- Sharing the Power
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8 Things You Should Know About Sam Baker!
1. Sam is KERA's senior editor and host for "Morning Edition."
2. He's a Beaumont native.
3. He edits and produces radio commentaries. He also interviews doctors and health experts each week for Vital Signs, the consumer health segment that airs Mondays on KERA Radio. He doesn't just read the news -- he writes and edits the news, often on tight deadlines. He also operates "the board" in the control room, playing the various segments of "Morning Edition." During breaks between stories, Sam chimes in throughout the morning with station identification, weather updates and much more.
4. He doesn't just talk on the radio -- for several years, he hosted KERA-TV's "On The Record," a public affairs program.
5. He's won many awards through the years, including Emmys, and honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.
6. Sam joined KERA in 1991. Earlier, he worked at a public radio station in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Before moving to public radio, he worked in commercial television.
7. As a volunteer, Sam produced a weekly series, Jazz in Words and Music, for Reading and Radio Resources, an agency serving the visually impaired. He's a former member on the board of Southwest Transplant Alliance.
8. His favorite kids' book? Henry and the Paper Route by Beverly Cleary. The book is about 10-year-old Henry Huggins, who is on a mission to get his own paper route. But the supervisor thinks he's too young. Henry is not going to let that stop him. Sam told Art&Seek: “Although the tale sounds dated in the Internet age, it’s both fun and inspiring. Best of all, Henry Huggins was like me at the time – a young boy with plenty of neighborhood friends, but still an only child. In this and every other book in the series about Henry I could get my hands on, I found home.”
Fond memories of Sam
KERA staffers reflect on Sam Baker:
"Congrats Sam on the big anniversary! Your work ethic and commitment to strong, unbiased, up-to-date news coverage is vital to the entire KERA newsroom." -- Lauren Silverman
"When I first started producing features for the radio, Sam was my editor. Coming from a print and literary background, I’d carefully and proudly craft my sentences so that one led seamlessly to the next – logically, grammatically with plenty of word-bridges indicating causation, conjunction, contrast and embellishment. And I’d use adverbs like carefully and proudly. And just as carefully, Sam would remove all my 'howevers' and 'althoughs' and 'if-then clauses' – until, tired of all that, he flat-out told me: 'You can do a lot of that with just your voice.' It has been the single best lesson I’ve learned on how to write for radio." -- Jerome Weeks
"Sam, you are a legend. You have many gifts – you are a talented journalist, a superb writer and a sharp editor. You have the highest standards. I admire your ability to edit and improve copy so quickly and so efficiently. You have a loyal following in Dallas-Fort Worth – people who have listened and trusted you for so long. You represent KERA so well and KERA is lucky to have you. Thanks for all that you do, each and every day on KERA." -- Eric Aasen
"Sam is someone at KERA I immediately respected. Once I got to know him a bit, I realized that he was both intelligent and professional, and also very kind. Sam, you are a rare talent and I’m so glad I work alongside you!" -- Courtney Collins
"Sam, you gave me some of the best interviewing advice I've ever received, which boils down to, 'It's always better to just ask a question than to make a speech to impress your interview subject.' Thanks for 25 great years of service!" -- Krys Boyd
"Congratulations, Sam! KERA would not be the same without you and your terrific voice. Thanks for always keepin’ it real." -- Stella M. Chávez
"Sam Baker was the voice inside my head long before I ever dreamed of working in public radio. Sam took the Morning Edition host chair the year before I first moved to Dallas. He woke me up, guided me on my commute, and plugged my brain in – a lot of days, before it was ready. He makes me care about things I’d never even considered. His dedication is unmatched: He’s at that microphone before dawn every single weekday – through rain, sleet, tornadoes and illnesses that would sideline even the toughest cowboy. I count on him, every day. Thanks, Sam." -- Rick Holter
"I always look forward to Monday and Vital Signs, when I learn a new way that I could die.” -- Stephen Becker
"Sam is KERA's 'not-so-secret' weapon. Listeners know Sam's voice, but what they don't know is that he's hands-down one of our best writers and editors. In my short time working with him, he's taught me so much. It's really an honor to produce for him because I learn something new every day!" -- Krystina Martinez
KERA's Krystina Martinez, Christopher Connelly, M.B. Boehm, Christine McConnell and Eric Bright contributed to this report.