Bob Ray Sanders said his big bias was to fight for what was right.
The National Association of Black Journalists honored Sanders for that pursuit on Friday when he was inducted into its 2018 Hall of Fame class in Detroit during its annual convention.
“I got into this business because I saw what journalism did during the civil rights movement,” Sanders said. “I’ve been dealing with the same issues for most of my professional career.”
It was reporters in television, print and radio who laid bare the pain of racial subjugation that the country had become so used to denying or celebrating during the course of centuries, Sanders said.
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It was the words and pictures of communicators who put American suffering and shame in a place where it could no longer be ignored that compelled Sanders to fight for the positions that he would hold in the future.
After graduating from from North Texas State University in 1969, Sanders went on to hold positions of authority in all those mediums, first taking a reporter job at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram where he was one of the first three African-American reporters hired.
Sanders rose to become president and station manager for television and radio after taking a reporting job in 1972 at KERA, the public radio station in the North Texas area. Sanders returned to the Star-Telegram in 1986, retiring from there in 2015.
Sanders is currently employed at the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce as its communications director and is co-chair of One Fort Worth, the city’s Task Force of Race and Culture.
It’s kind of like he never left reporting, and Sanders said his goals have not changed.
“Most of my life I did opinion writing and some of the things I wrote made some people so angry they wanted to end my existence,” Sanders said.
Throughout his career Sanders said he and others with him struggled against people who did not want inclusion and who were perfectly happy with the way America operated in the past.
“I look back at how many people are in these newsrooms and it reminds me of the 1980s,” he said. “I don’t want to go back to the negative past that I knew. It’s not lynchings on the courthouse square but it’s serious. It’s not about taking sides except for the side of the right.”
Sanders said journalists of his time were given a mission to speak the truth to people. But some have backed away from that goal because they are afraid of being seen as too liberal or too biased. Sanders said he wore the liberal tag with honor.
“I took it as a compliment,” he said. “I would have had to have been a fool to not want things to change for the better. I haven’t changed that much but I’m proud of the things that I have helped to change.”
That the print media has withdrawn from covering communities of color is disappointing, Sanders said.
“I’m very disappointed that we don’t have more people doing that and that includes the Star-Telegram,” Sanders said.
Being inducted into The Hall of Fame is he highest honor the NABJ can bestow, according to an NABJ news release.
Sanders joins four other journalists —in the 2018 class — Albert Dunmore, former executive editor at the Pittsburgh Courier, Victoria Jones, formerly a Boston television producer, Louis Martin, a journalist who became advisor to presidents Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter, and William Rhoden, an award winning New York Times sports writer.
Of the 2018 inductees, only Sanders and Rhoden are living, the release said.