Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Behind the Headlines: Kerry Sanders Reflects on 32 Years with NBC News

For decades, Kerry Sanders stood strong, mic in hand, live shot after live shot, ready to tell us stories from across the globe on the TODAY Show, NBC Nightly News, MSNBC or Dateline NBC.

For a few of those stories, I was one of the lucky ones who got to report alongside him.

Kerry and I would stand steps away from each other for live shots covering numerous South Florida stories (while Kerry covered stories around the world for NBC, Fort Lauderdale is his home so for Florida action, he was often the first to be called). He was reporting for the network and I was reporting for WPTV, West Palm Beach’s NBC affiliate. 

But it was the moments before those live shots that, for me, were the most memorable. 

In television news, you quickly get to know those you work with and those you interview. Journalists, videographers and producers from sister networks become fast friends—often sharing video, information and contacts on scene. And when you found yourself working with someone like Kerry Sanders, your day at work became so much better. 

Paige Kornblue and Kerry Sanders

Kerry made every assignment look easy. He knew the right questions to ask authorities and family members. He could swing from silly to serious in a snap—covering light features to heavy breaking news stories. He knew what to say professionally, he knew how to encourage those of us a few years behind him in the business and he sure could make us laugh when we needed a smile. 

Today, Kerry Sanders is the one smiling the most. 

Kerry retired from TV news earlier this year after 42 years in the industry, 32 of them at NBC News. Kerry is a graduate of the University of South Florida and spent many of his early career days on-air at Miami’s NBC affiliate, WTVJ. 

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with him and swap roles a bit. 

This time…. Kerry Sanders was the top story. 

Here are some highlights:

Your phone would ring at all hours of the day. Not anymore… 

No complaints. I loved it. I had two cell phones as well as a hard line. If you couldn’t reach me within two minutes, that was my fault. I always could get back to you if I didn’t answer the phone. It just came with the territory. It’s why covering news is so exhausting but exhilarating at the same time. 

How is it now for you…  taking a pause? 

It’s funny, I thought, well, this is gonna be great. I’m going to not have to worry about all of that. And a friend of mine said, ‘Kerry, when a phone call comes, it’s just a phone call. If you don’t answer it, it doesn’t matter.’ So I’m like, okay, I got that down. And then another good friend of mine who recently retired, said, ‘Do yourself a favor. Don’t watch the Today Show or Nightly News for the first couple of months because you will sit there and go, I wonder how I would be doing that. What would I be doing on that story? Should I have done that? Oh, they missed this…. so I took that advice, but what I didn’t realize is I needed to learn to relax. I had to go through the whole process of learning to relax. So now I’m about six months in and I can say I finally now have gotten to the point where I can say I’m relaxing. I’ve got some things that I need to do, but I also realized, I don’t need to do it today. It doesn’t matter. I can do that tomorrow which is kind of nice. 

Do you miss TV news? 

There are some things that I would like to be doing—certainly some features, stories that I would like to be doing. But the day to day, I have basically exhausted every story that you could possibly do having done it multiple times. Breaking news—I don’t miss that at all. School shootings, tornadoes, earthquakes. Don’t miss covering those. I did more than a hundred named storms in my career. I don’t miss that at all. 

Why retire now? 

It was just the right time. I’m 62 and I feel very fortunate that I could step away. I was on the road 200 days a year on average, which has never been a complaint of mine. But my wife was getting like, are we ever really gonna spend much time together? If you’re always doing this? And so during the pandemic, the first year, nobody went anywhere, and so I was home all the time reporting by Zoom, standing in the backyard doing live reports and everything else. So while that was boring, the upside was that we realized, ‘Hey, we still love each other. We get along great. I don’t have to be on the road 200 days a year. Let’s take advantage of this.’ So that was just sort of the timing and here I am. 

People have described you as TV gold, which I would agree. Your colleagues said, ‘No matter the story, if Kerry Sanders was behind it, you knew it was going to be memorable.’ 

That probably comes down to curiosity. It’s never really my story. I told other people’s stories and telling other people’s stories was listening to what they had to say. There used to be that line that everybody has a story. As a journalist, your job is to find out what that story is and then share it. 

For more on Kerry Sanders’ hurricane coverage (and why reporters really do stand out in the storm), favorite and most challenging stories he’s covered and what he has to say about his well-known NBC anchor colleagues, tune in to Episode 53 of The Paige Kornblue Show podcast!

Follow The Paige Kornblue Show and Blog at PaigeKornblue.com and @PaigeKornblue for Community, News, Travel and more!

Paige Kornblue
Paige Kornbluehttp://www.PaigeKornblue.com
Paige Kornblue is an award-winning journalist who founded Paige Kornblue Media and The Paige Kornblue Show highlighting everything from interesting people, fascinating places to the gems that make our communities special. In addition to The Paige Kornblue Show podcast and Boca Magazine, Paige is a TODAY Show Parenting Team Contributor. She has anchored and reported for top-rated television stations across the country including WPTV NBC NewsChannel 5 and WMUR ABC News 9. Paige has also worked at NBC Sports and Dateline NBC and provided live reports for CNN and The Weather Channel. Some of her most memorable stories include exclusive interviews with President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Senator John McCain, Barbara Walters, Emmitt Smith, Desmond Howard, Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert. PK is a proud Boca Raton native who grew up loving Boca Magazine and all that comes with the fabulous city of Boca Raton! You can often find her on stage assisting charities as event emcee and moderator, on the courts working to improve her tennis game and on momma time enjoying each moment with her three young kiddos!

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