WISH-TV’s Scott Sander: From CHS’s WHJE To Award-Winning Local Media Personality
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This month, we are pleased to feature Carmel resident and Carmel High School (CHS) alum Scott Sander on our cover. WISH-TV’s Sander is a 30-plus-year multiple-Emmy-award-winning anchor. He is also a CCS parent and dedicated community volunteer.
We spoke with Sander about his radio days at WHJE and how those experiences laid the foundation for his career in radio and then local broadcast TV. We also discussed why he decided to return to his old stomping grounds along with his wife, Tammy, and their two children, in Carmel, Indiana.
WHJE—The Voice of the Greyhounds
Before Sander graduated from CHS in 1990, he gained on-air experience as a sports- and newscaster for WHJE, the CHS radio broadcast program for aspiring broadcasters at the high school. Under the guidance of CHS teachers Scott Gregg and Tom Schoeller, Sander began building the foundation to a long and successful broadcast career.
“I had a couple of terrific teachers [Gregg and Schoeller] who guided me through the [radio] program,” Sander shared. “At one point, Mr. Schoeller pulled me aside and in so many words said, ‘You don’t have any idea what you want to do with your life, do you?’ and I said, ‘No, sir.’ And he said, ‘Well, you’re not terrible at this, so you might give [broadcasting] a shot.”
Sander said he jumped into the program with “both feet” and got excited about sports broadcasting, all the while learning important lessons about perseverance as well as the logistics behind executing a proper broadcast.
“My first newscast was in the main studio at WHJE, and I believe Del Shannon had just passed,” Sander recollected. “We were going to go on air with our regular hourly update, and it was my first newscast clip. I wanted to include a clip of one of [Del’s] songs—“Runaway,” I think. So, we put it on the ‘cart.’ Back then, a cart looked like an eight-track tape that you recorded on, and then you would fire up the cart when it was time to go.”
Just as Sander was to go on air for his very first newscast, Murphy’s Law took effect.
“I said, ‘Del Shannon passed away today,’ and I pointed my finger to cue … and then there was nothing but dead air,” Sander said. “And so, my first broadcasting experience was a failure, but it was a great thing because just as WHJE was a great place to succeed, it may have been an even better place to fail. While the whole idea was to never have dead air and never to intentionally cause a mistake, it was an opportunity to make a mistake and know that you could come back and try it again to see if [broadcasting] was a fit for you and see if you could maybe make a life out of it.”
Sander added, “It’s still in progress, but I’ve been at this for 32 years and counting, so it’s worked [for me] so far.”
The Transition From Radio to Live TV
After graduating from CHS, Sander attended the University of Missouri on the advice of his mentors, Mr. Gregg and Mr. Schoeller. As part of the degree program, Sander had to participate in both its radio and TV programs.
“I thought I was going to do radio play-by-play for sports,” Sander stated. “And in a similar conversation with the [station’s] news director that I had once had with Mr. Schoeller, the director looked at me and said, ‘I don’t know if you’ve ever considered television, but you’re not terrible at it. You might give it a try.’ My north stars have been people who have spoken frankly to me. Both CHS and [University of] Missouri made it possible for me, and I’ve been very lucky that way.”
We discussed the differences—in prep— between being on radio and live TV, and when asked if Sander prefers radio over TV or vice versa, Sander quipped, “When you introduce hair spray into the equation, it changes everything for sure.”
Sander continued, “I’ve been lucky because I’ve been doing morning TV most of my career, and it’s the closest thing to a hybrid of the two [radio and TV] because there’s an informality that lends itself to what is great about radio. But there’s an access to things that radio can’t bring, such as compelling images and on-the-spot reporting where you can see what’s actually happening. I really like morning television because it lets me use skills from both of these areas.”
Sander has reported live on many historical and unprecedented events—including some of the nation’s most tragic incidents. Sanders was on the scene for events such as the history-shaping flooding in Missouri, the campaign trail as presidential candidates crisscrossed Iowa and from the grounds of Columbine High School within minutes of the tragedy that unfolded there. He’s covered many stories all over Central Indiana, including the greatest spectacle in racing—the Indianapolis 500.
We asked Sander how one navigates through the various headspaces to conduct a professional and accurate reporting of what’s going on in that moment—experiencing much of what first responders and those directly affected are also experiencing. He thoughtfully replied, “I do believe what we [journalists] do is useful and it can be important. If I’ve learned nothing else from my parents and grandparents, it’s that if something is useful and is worth doing—it’s worth doing well. I try to remember—especially at a difficult location—that I may be the only conduit to information that a person at the other end has. If you always presume that you are—for that moment—the source of information that a person has and that they’ve chosen to pay attention to you, then you owe it to them to be present and effort-filled.”
Sander paused and then added, “Whatever I’m feeling in that moment, the people inside of the yellow line are feeling it tenfold. When I feel overwhelmed, I have to fight it and remind myself that the only reason it’s upsetting news is because it’s upsetting somebody else so much more and they deserve my effort and professional reporting of the situation.”
Back Home Again
Sander and his family left Colorado and moved to Carmel in 2005 where he signed on as the first anchor of WISH-TV’s 10 o’clock news on MyINDY-TV 23. He was moved up to the Daybreak team in 2007 where he’s been for 14 years and counting.
The Sander family is active and involved in the Carmel and Indianapolis communities. The Sander children are active in sports and performing arts at the middle school and high school levels.
Sander is actively involved in community organizations such as The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Indianapolis Fire Department, the Indiana Historical Society and Carmel Education Foundation. He also coached for many years with the Carmel Dad’s Club while his son was active in the club’s athletic programs.
“I just rolled off a six-year term as a board member of the Indianapolis Public Library Foundation, which my grandfather [Harold John Sander] began towards the end of his time as the director of public libraries [1956–72] in Indianapolis,” Sander shared. “The foundation continues to be the fundraising arm for the library’s programs.”
Sander shared that one of the main reasons he and his wife chose to root in the Carmel community was because of its schools. And being a product himself of CCS made that decision all the easier.
“Please don’t think for a minute that I think the Carmel schools are perfect, but I think they’re still extraordinary,” Sander expressed. “I’m lucky that my kids have the opportunity to look for their niche and what sings to their heart. And no one can say that there aren’t opportunities available in Carmel. As for the city of Carmel itself, the changes to the city have been enormous but some things have remained constant. And I think the dedication to the ideas of the [Carmel] school system has remained pretty true.”