SYRACUSE PRESS CLUB
“I see through the eyes of a Christian, an African-American, a woman, a journalist, an aunt, a daughter – Someone who feels at ease with all kinds of people. I try to bring that varied perspective to my columns,” says Saundra Smokes.
‘Sandy, “ as she is known to friends and colleagues, became the first person of color in the history of the Syracuse Newspapers to sit on the Herald-Journal’s editorial board in 1985. She also is the first person of color to write a full-time opinion column for the newspapers.
She has won numerous honors and awards as her career climbed from reporter to local columnist, to the editorial board, to syndicated columnist, and then back to The Post Standard as an editorial writer, copy editor, and editorial board member.
Upon her return to the editorial board in 2003, she initiated the series, “Taxpayers Held Hostage,” which won a first place community service award from the New York State Publishers Association. Sandy also received awards for commentary (editorials and columns) in 1993 and 1994 from the Associated Press.
A Syracuse native, Sandy started writing while in elementary school and continued with “soap operas” about her middle-school classmates. After graduation, she attended the University of Buffalo. In 1978, she joined the Herald-Journal as a “copy kid,” an employee who does all sorts of odd jobs in the newsroom. Soon, however, she began writing feature stories. She was promoted to reporter covering city and county news, and later, she became a copy editor.
In November 1992, a column on the outcome of the first trial of Los Angeles police officers accused of beating motorist Rodney King, was picked up by newspapers nationwide. The following year, Sandy began writing a regular opinion column for the Syracuse Newspapers.
Seven months after she began writing the local column, United Features Syndicate selected Sandy to write a column they would syndicate across the United States. Twenty-two newspapers picked up her work each week for eight years. In 2003, she returned to The Post-Standard to write editorials and work on the copy desk.
Her awards include the 1998 Urban League Harriet Tubman Award, the Ann Felton Memorial Award and Community Service Award from the Syracuse Chapter of the NAACP, Citizen of the Year from Omega Psi Phi fraternity at Syracuse University, the Great Leader Award from the Onondaga County Political Women’s Caucus, the Marjorie Dowdell Fortitude Award from Delta Sigma Theta fraternity at SU, and the Pit Bull Award from the Greater Syracuse Communications Group. She also received the Syracuse Press Club’s Selwyn Kershaw Professional Stands Award.
Sandy also writes plays, including “A Tribute to Motown” and “In Our Own Backyard,” and a video drama, “Daddy’s Home,” which won a Cable Ace award. --Joseph A. Porcello