His introduction into the Chicago market in 1994 was a far change from the long-time anchormen that preceded him at WLS-TV ABC-7.
But Hosea’s good looks and his smooth approach to delivering the news brought a fresh wave of viewers to tune in to the 6 a.m. broadcast of he co-anchored with veteran journalist Linda Yu and the last 10 years with co-anchorwoman, Judy Hsu.
Both Sanders and Yu have shifted to the evening broadcast at 7 p.m. on WCIU-TV Channel 26 now; it’s a media partnership that allows ABC-7 to provide news reports to WCIU’s viewers.
A native of Arkadelphia, Arkansas, Sanders grew up in that modest town where his mom was a Vice Mayor for 21 years. Growing up in a household with four younger sisters and brothers, he loved to write from an early age.
“One of the early Christmas gifts my parents gave me was a little cassette recorder,” Sanders recalled. “I would go around and interview everyone. When I couldn’t find anyone to interview, I would make the voices up myself.
“As a kid, I loved to write, but I didn’t think about it’s a profession until I was in my senior year in high school. We all played football, and my younger brother had been a running back. One evening, our team lost a game.”
A local sportswriter blamed Sanders’ younger brother for the defeat and an upset Hosea wrote a letter to the editor expressing his frustration as he protected his brother. The paper published his letter.
Impressed by his strong writing skills and the power of his message, faculty members at the local university encouraged Sanders to consider a career in journalism.
Attending Henderson State University on a sports scholarship, Sanders soon changed his major to Communications and Journalism, earning a B.A. from the Arkansas school.
He had an impressive beginning in the industry, starting out with an internship at small country music station, KMLA in Ashdown. He wore multiple hats – writing news stories, announcing sports and playing the music.
Sanders says, “By the time of my graduation, I asked the boss if I could do everything. He let me do it. I did the morning show, with a country voice. In the afternoon, I did a middle of the road voice. When I did the news, I was all serious. I switched personalities. I was also answering the phone.”
He moved to Little Rock, gaining his first television job at KARK-TV, then left his home state of Arkansas to accept the weekend anchor and reporter position at KDFW-TV in Dallas from 1981-86. As his career grew, Sanders landed in the number two market in the country, Los Angeles in 1986, where he served as the entertainment reporter at KCBS-TV, covering the entertainment beat.
“They would also call me ‘Countdown’ because I had to come up with these specials. I would do a special before the Grammy Awards. It would be ‘Countdown to the Grammys,’ ‘Countdown to the Oscars.’ In one week, I talked to Vanessa Williams, Angela Bassett, Little Richard at his house, and all these famous people,” Sanders said.
But he was itching for something more as he began to feel that all of the Hollywood stories were starting to sound and look the same. So Sanders took a leap out on faith when the offer came to join WLS ABC-7 in August 1994.
“I was reluctant to come to Chicago,” he said. “When I walked into that newsroom, I had never seen that many Black people in my life in one newsroom. Everyone from producers to reporters. When I joined the station, there were five Black men on the air, including myself.”
Sanders joined the esteemed roster of award-winning journalists Russ Ewing, Harry Porterfield, Bob Petty and Charles Thomas. “It used to be back in the day, there was one and if there was someone already there, you better be nervous. It was interchangeable – they would be like they have their ‘Black’ spot.”
Sanders soon became comfortable with his new environment. “I said let me seriously consider this. This was a place I could succeed as a Black man and I could succeed as a prime anchor. That was one of the reasons they brought me here, to be a prime anchor man.”
Sanders paired up with veteran co-anchor and reporter Linda Yu in the 4:30-7 a.m. primetime slot. Sanders became Chicago’s most reliable anchor to wake up to and built a fan base that has followed him for the past 20 years.
In addition to his anchorman duties, he is also the host of the Emmy Award winning Heart and Soul TV show focusing on Chicago’s African-American community. He is proud to be a part of this kind of special programming that the station produces every season.
“Even the name – it’s all good news,” Sanders says. “It’s celebrating good things that are happening in the community. Good people, doing good things. Just to sit and tell the stories, there’s not many places left like that anymore. There’s a home for that here.”
At a time, where people of color are often captured in soundbites associated with crime, violence and poverty, he feels “Heart and Soul” shuts these images down.
Listening Is Key
“These types of quality show – it’s not just thrown together. This is quality reporting with quality production. We look for uplifting things. Again, not being condescending, but being respectful for what people have done and overcome,” he said.
Sanders credits the people in his life that have influenced him the most growing up – his family. He feels that the art of listening is the key to being a good journalist and the gift of telling other people’s story is the journey of being a ‘better’ journalist.
“Give people a chance to be listened to; everybody wants to be heard,” Sanders says. “You don’t classify people, you don’t judge people, and nobody is better than anybody else.”
Losing his father as he was coming up motivated him on his path to remain focused and appreciate his success. Growing up, he said they didn’t have much – often shopping the Salvation Army and making the best of what they had – but they made a way.
Sanders said, “That’s why I work hard. I promised my mom when my father died, that I would give her a better life than she had before. I’m able to take her places she has never gone. Give her experiences she’s never had.”
As a veteran journalist, Sanders is also an ongoing mentor for young people and aspiring journalists – he works with the Chicago Public Schools Mentoring Program, NAACP, and Alpha Phi Alpha Big Brothers program.
A proud member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, Sanders is recognized for multiple achievements and often volunteers for the North Lawndale Employment Network.
What is the key to being a better person? He sighs and answers, “We can walk down the street and there’s five different stories. Something that someone is going through or something that someone is accused of that no one knows about. If someone believes them and believes in them, there’s hope.”
***Note: Correction in this week’s 2-24-16 Chicago Defender paper misspelled co-anchor Linda Yu’s name. Co-anchor Judy Hsu joined the ABC-7 morning news broadcast in 2001.