Sandy Banks is a veteran journalist and senior fellow with the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy. She is best known for her Los Angeles Times columns, and she was also part of the team awarded the Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Before joining a Zócalo/Getty event titled “Did Truth Ever Matter?” that took place in Los Angeles, she spoke in the green room about appearing on TV news shows, how Los Angeles has changed, and the most dangerous fact that is frequently denied.
Where is your favorite place to eat in Los Angeles?
My own kitchen, honestly. I love to cook.
What question do you get asked most often by aspiring journalists?
“How do you get into journalism?” is what aspiring journalists want to know. And it’s changed so much since I started that I never know what to tell them anymore. I just say write, you know, kind of figure out what it is that draws you in and makes you special and do it. And hope that you’re lucky, too.
Who was your childhood hero?
My mom. I know that’s corny, but she was. She was my champion, too.
What do you think is the most dangerous fact that’s frequently denied?
Well, I could say climate change in terms of the danger to our planet. But, on a personal level, I think it’s the idea that women, people of color, you know—gay, lesbian, and transgender people—have it harder. I have friends, all different kinds of friends, and it’s hard for them to always understand some of the challenges that other people face.
In five words how would you describe Los Angeles in the 1990s?
It was multicultural, exciting, cool, friendly, and big. I come from Cleveland, Ohio, so, it’s big. I came here in the 1990s.
How would you describe L.A. now?
Too crowded. Impossible to navigate comfortably. Much more diverse—wonderfully diverse. I think family friendly, actually. And much more culturally interesting.
What magazines and newspapers do you currently subscribe to?
The L.A. Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Daily News, The Atlantic, Essence, and O, The Oprah Magazine.
If you didn’t live in Los Angeles, where would you be?
I’d be in Oakland. I love Oakland.
Where do you take out-of-town guests when they come to Los Angeles?
To the beach. To Zuma. Or Huntington where we can make the fires.
What’s your hidden talent?
Hidden … I try not to keep my talents hidden. I’m really good with kids. I was going to be a teacher.
What do you think is the most beautiful film ever made?
Beautiful … I don’t know. I don’t always think of films always in terms of beautiful, but I really liked The Lion King, if that makes sense. I took my kids, and I thought it was beautiful.
What TV news personality do you admire most?
Right now, it’s Gayle King.
What’s the biggest difference between writing print journalism and appearing on TV news panels?
For me, I write to know how I think. So writing kind of allows you to connect your thoughts and convey a big picture. But being on news panels you just answer a question and often have to defend yourself or defend your view. So writing is much more organic.
Do you believe objective truth exists?
I believe it exists, not in as many arenas as we might think. And I think nobody has a monopoly on it. But yeah, I think it exists.