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Meet Sandy Hooper of USA TODAY in Westchester

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sandy Hooper.

Sandy, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’m a storyteller at heart and my medium has always been in the visual space. When I was asked in 5th grade what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was “photographer” – which was a lot different than most of my classmates who wrote down careers like being an astronaut. I’m humbled to say I’ve been living my dream every day.

I’m a Los Angeles native, a rarity these days, but spent a lot of time on the east coast bouncing between Atlanta, Boston and New York City. During those years, I honed in on my passion from photography to video and documentaries. I worked as a freelance photographer post-art school, but it wasn’t fulfilling my desire to tell stories of the people and communities around me. Something was missing. I decided to go to grad school to learn journalism and shift from still to moving images. To say I thrived would be an understatement. I discovered the tools I needed to tell the stories that I wanted to tell.

I had some wonderful internships where I grew professionally and I landed at USA TODAY a few weeks after grad school. I started as a video editor and over the years my role has evolved and expanded. I am currently a Senior Video Producer for USA TODAY.

Has it been a smooth road?
Of course not, but it wouldn’t be an adventure without some hills and valleys.

In college, I remember sitting on my living room floor, stuffing my portfolio and resume into envelopes to apply for internships and jobs, only to receive rejection letters several weeks later. Those letters stayed on my wall as motivation to keep going after what I wanted. And you know what? I made it. It takes hard work, and there are some detours, but you’ll eventually get there as long as you stay focused on your goals.

My current personal challenge is to get more women and people of diverse backgrounds into this space with me. I’m constantly looking around when I’m on assignment, and I’m usually the only woman with a camera in the room. This is unacceptable, and this has to change. There are so many young, talented visual storytellers out there, but there is something stopping them from progressing in their careers.

Another personal challenge is to get journalists to recognize and talk about trauma and self-care. When news breaks, it’s our instinct to report. Unfortunately, that means reporting on a lot of tragedies. Journalists want to keep their communities informed, but with that comes experiencing a lot of trauma and grief. I’m constantly advocating for self-care, to talk about what’s on your mind and taking mental health days to recharge.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
As a Senior Video Producer for USA TODAY, I lead a team of photographers and videographers out of our Los Angeles bureau. We cover a wide variety of topics from news to entertainment. In a span of a week we could be covering a wildfire and then a Hollywood red carpet, our days are never the same. Personally, I specialize in major sporting events – I’ve covered 7 Super Bowls and 4 Olympics (Tokyo coming up!)

Our visuals team thrives on producing documentaries. Last summer, a team of two dozen visual journalists from the USA TODAY Network spent a week reporting in four countries and 30 cities to understand how the U.S. is grappling with an influx of migrants and how border policies have put a strain on border cities. The end result is a 20-minute film called ‘The Migrants’ that I’m very proud of.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I really love Los Angeles. I was gone for about 12 years and had the opportunity to check out other cities, but LA was always calling me back. I feel connected to my Mexican culture here.

I love how I can get out of the city and be in the wilderness in an hour. I rock climb and hike, and I’ve found a really incredible network of women breaking down barriers in that space – just like what I’m trying to do in the visual journalism. I’m constantly inspired by the people I meet here.

The cost of living is the thing I dislike the most about LA and I see it as a barrier to keeping our city diverse and inclusive.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Robert Hanashiro, Cory Mullen, Gina Danza, Alex Ptachick.

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