Sara Sidner, CNN National and International Correspondent, was honored by the faculty and students in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (JMC) with the prestigious William Randolph Hearst Award for excellence in professional journalism on October 13, 2015.
As a national and global news reporter, Sidner has reported on a wide range of subjects from international terrorism, race riots and protests in America, to business moves, and social and cultural issues making headlines. She has experienced first-hand the dangers journalists face in war torn regions including Libya, Egypt, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. In the Middle East, Sidner was part of the CNN team that won the top broadcast news honor, the Peabody Award, for CNN’s coverage of the Arab Spring. She’s also covered major breaking news in Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Taiwan.
Now based in Los Angeles, California for CNN Sidner just returned from covering the tragic community college shooting incident in Oregon this fall. She also led and continues to follow up on the network’s coverage in Ferguson, Missouri where protests continued for months after an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by a white police officer. While reporting on live television during the weeks of rioting, Sidner was pelted in the head by a rock thrown by a protester angry about national media coverage. At one time, Sidner was also a local reporter and news anchor for KTVU Channel 2 in the Bay Area.
JMC faculty invited Sidner to speak to as many students and classes as possible while on campus, and discuss in candid terms the real world challenges journalists face every day around the nation and across the world. She started her day by joining a small group of JMC students in the Dwight Bentel Hall television studio for a round table discussion about issues that interested them. She later visited three large lecture classes with a focus on media and society, law and ethics in media, and diversity and life experiences reported in the media. Students were amazed by Sidner’s warm personality, free flowing candor and passion for journalism.
JMC faculty hosted the annual Hearst Award Foundation luncheon at Flames Restaurant. Campus officials and many of Sidner’s local media friends and former co-workers were invited to join the celebration. Among the guests in attendance were Dr. Mary Schutten, Dean, College of Applied Sciences and Arts (CASA); Dr. Pamela Richardson, Associate Dean, CASA; Sonia Wright, CASA Development Director; Dr. Dennis Wilcox, former JMC School Director; Sal Pizarro, JMC School graduate. Columnist for the San Jose Mercury News included Rita Williams, Retired Bay Area KTVU 2 Reporter; Lloyd La Cuesta, JMC School graduate and Retired KTVU 2 South Bay Bureau Chief; Rigo Chacon, Retired ABC 7 South Bay Bureau Chief; Kiet Do and Devin Fehely, KPIX 5 Reporters; Egan Schulz, JMC School graduate and Silicon Valley media executive; Keith Sanders, SJSU Video Producer/Hearst Event Video Production.
Before the later afternoon Hearst Award ceremony, Sara Sider led some heartfelt discussions with journalism students in the convergence newsroom in Dwight Bentel Hall. Later she would tell JMC School Director, Professor Bob Rucker that the students in all the classes did their research very well, learned as much as they could about her career in advance, and asked very impressive questions.
This very special day concluded with the William Randolph Hearst Award ceremony at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library. Nearly 150 people attended the 90 minute presentation that included a powerful address by Sidner. At one point the guest of honor welled up with tears and paused as she was telling how painful it can be telling the personal stories of people devastated by wars, natural disasters and political corruption.
Sidner and her husband Tim stayed late to shake hands and thank all who came to hear her speak at San José State University. She promised to come back, and plans to stay in touch with the JMC School. She invited students looking for a mentor about careers in journalism to contact her.
Photos included are from CNN, Google, JMC School student Randy Vazquez, and JMC School director, Bob Rucker.