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Bob Oakes is stepping down from WBUR’s ‘Morning Edition’ show

Longtime host will stay at station for another year as a senior correspondent

Bob Oakes plans to end a three-decade tenure as host of WBUR's Morning Edition.Liz Linder Photography

After more than 27 years hosting the local “Morning Edition” show for WBUR, Bob Oakes is stepping away from the microphone and hitting the street.

Station CEO Margaret Low told WBUR staff on Thursday that Oakes is leaving the hosting gig to spend his next year with WBUR as a senior correspondent. Oakes, who turns 66 next month, expects to probably retire at the end of next year.

Oakes has become a well-known and trusted journalistic voice during his nearly three-decade run as host of WBUR’s morning show, which airs from 5 to 9 a.m. every weekday and features a mix of local reporting and segments from affiliated stations in the National Public Radio network. He’ll stay in the hosting role until WBUR finds a replacement.

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“He’s a hard person to follow,” Low said. “We will take our time and get it right.”

Oakes said he got his start in the radio business as a reporter, burnishing his reputation in the 1980s and early 1990s at the old WEEI, when it was a CBS-owned news station.

“For a number of years, I’ve been contemplating what I wanted to do toward the end of my career,” Oakes said. “I have said, for a long time, that I would like to go out the way I came in. I honestly never thought I would get the opportunity. Margaret Low came to me and offered me this opportunity. It took me all of two minutes to say ‘yes.’”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Oakes would wake up at 2:30 a.m. each morning to prepare for an hour-plus commute to Boston from his home in Dudley. Things have become easier in 2020 on this front for Oakes: He has been able to “sleep in” until 3:30 a.m., and maybe even hit the snooze button once or twice. He turns his bedroom into a makeshift studio every morning because it’s the quietest room in the house; he understandably gives his wife, Martha, credit because she needs to wake up before he goes on the air.

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He has gone from putting 30,000-plus miles on his Toyota Corolla each year to rarely driving it at all.

Oakes said he has tremendously enjoyed his time as host, working with talented colleagues and hearing from listeners thankful that WBUR has become “an island of sanity in the middle of a sea of chaos" for them.

He has been able to do some reporting in his current job, but he’s looking forward to returning to it on a full-time basis, to tell the stories he has not had the time to tell as a “Morning Edition” host.

“As much as I love ‘Morning Edition,' I really want to play reporter for a little while before I hang it up,” Oakes said.

Low said this is a big transition for Oakes, for the station, and for its audience.

“He knows news,” Low said. “He’s talked to every newsmaker in Boston over the decades. ... He’s a rock star, and a rock. We’re glad we have him on the air as long as we can keep him on the air.”


Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him @jonchesto.