Sarah Connell Sanders: The Journalist New England needs

There has been a lot of hassle thrown at journalist over the last 4 years. One side has been in open rebellion of what they consider “fake news” and it seems to just end up being anything they don’t agree with. Great journalism is going to the way side because people are not believing in press anymore like they used to. New England has not been immune to these temptations of believing that journalism is fake. However in the depths of the media storm that has engulfed this region, one journalist stands above the rest with well thought out in-depth stories, truth, and the pursuit of inspiring narration. That individual is Sarah Connell Sanders!

Sarah Connell Sanders is a media specialist and freelance writer based out of Worcester, Massachusetts. Her work is dedicated to creating conversations around food, women, and education. After being disheartened by the lack of representation for women in local radio, Sarah began producing Pop It, a podcast and radio show dedicated to elevating women’s voices. Sarah was a member of Leadership Worcester’s class of 2018; she was named “Worcester’s Best Columnist” in 2019 by Best of Worcester; and this year, she appeared on Worcester Business Journal’s “40 Under Forty” list. As a Worcester Public Library Foundation trustee, Sarah has helped secure over $4.3 million for the renovation of the children’s room. She has also advocated for more than 100 public art installations across the city of Worcester. Sarah has contributed to Juxtapoz Magazine, School Arts Magazine, Edible Magazine, and Worcester Magazine. Her lifestyle column appears weekly in the Telegram and Gazette. We were able to sit down with her for an interview to chat about journalism, and that things that are going well and the things that can be improved.

Classic Entourage Mag: Thanks for chatting with us! Can you tell us a little about what started your path in journalism?

Sarah Connell Sanders: Thank you so much for sharing my story. My path to journalism was not a traditional one. I was a Division 1 swimmer, which meant I spent 25 hours a week in the pool for most of my life. When I graduated college, I couldn’t afford a pool membership on a teacher’s salary. I found a fancy fitness club willing to trade blog posts for pool time. The members responded positively to my writing and I started getting freelance inquiries. Within a couple of years, I had my own column in an alt-weekly magazine.

CE Mag: What inspired you to take on the lack of representation by women in media? What changes lately have you seen? Has it gotten better?

SCS: The local radio station would invite me on-air every Friday to discuss my column. One day, I was on their website and I realized that all of the hosts were men. I started looking up other local stations and I couldn’t find a single talk radio show hosted by a woman in Worcester. We’re the second-largest city in New England. I was appalled. One of my best friends, Molly O’Connor, has a background in political communications. She agreed to meet with the station producer with me to express our concerns. He said, “It sounds like you two just volunteered to host a show.” We launched our podcast Pop It in the summer of 2018, and since then, we’ve had more than 20,000 downloads. 

Creativity continues to set us apart from machines and I think social media allows us to express that part of ourselves more freely.

Sarah Connell Sanders

CE Mag: Can you talk about some other concerns in the current state of affairs when it comes to media? Politics have become so ingrained in the mainstream media and even social media, how do people separate the two?

SCS: The most frightening thing I see happening in the media is the substitution of Artificial Intelligence for human reporters. The Associated Press has used AI to cover sports and finance as far back as 2014 with the understanding that machines can bring objectivity to a story. I want to make sure we’re paying attention to the programmers behind this innovative technology. If the individuals writing these algorithms do not represent a diverse group, then the automated stories may very well reflect the political, racial, and gender bias of the technologists. Creativity continues to set us apart from machines and I think social media allows us to express that part of ourselves more freely. I use TikTok as a tool for storytelling and Instagram as an entry point for opinion pieces. 

CE Mag: What future projects do you have in the works? 

SCS: During the spring, I was doing a lot of ghostwriting for business owners across New England. Some of the most talented and intelligent people I’ve ever met think of writing as grueling work and they would rather pay me to do it. I don’t mind; I live to write. That said, I prefer to see my own byline when I’ve put a lot of heart into something. My ultimate goal is to publish a young adult novel. 

CE Mag: With a weekly column that you write, what does your schedule look like? Can you give us an example of what a typical day looks like?

SCS: I teach writing and research seminars to students during the week. Before COVID, it felt like I had an event to attend every night. Now, I conduct most of my interviews over Zoom. I read The New York Times with my husband every Sunday morning over coffee and then spend the rest of the day writing. My friends know Sundays are off-limits. 

CE Mag: Pop It seems like a very innovative idea. How has the podcast been going thus far? Where do you see it going in the future?

SCS: We’ve come a long way. Our goal was always to elevate women’s voices, but we had no idea we’d be welcomed into the lives of so many incredible mentors. We have a special fondness for the Senate President Emerita Harriette L. Chandler. She has a lot of great stories about crossing paths with feminist legends like Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. The show has become increasingly personal as time goes on and we are so grateful for our listeners. 

Local reporting is pivotal to the future of our democracy. 

Sarah Connell Sanders

CE Mag: If there was one thing you wish you saw less of in the media world what would it be and why?

SCS: Newspapers are being gobbled up by large media conglomerates. There’s a famous saying, “All politics is local.” I really believe that. Local reporting is pivotal to the future of our democracy. 

CE Mag: Thank you for sitting down with us! It was such an honor! Do you have any advice for new creatives and journalists just starting in this field?

SCS: The most difficult assignment of my career was reporting on alleged sexual misconduct at The College of the Holy Cross. Initially, I passed on the story. I told my editor, “I don’t have the experience to write something this serious.” He responded by saying, “Well, how the hell do you think you get experience? Write the damn story!” That turned out to be the best advice I ever received. Write the damn story. 

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All photos by “Unity” Mike Hendrickson

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