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Silhouettes profiles Saundra Weathers

Saundra Weatehrs

From Silhouettes, by Tiffany Razzano
Originally published April 19, 2024

As a high school student, Fort Lauderdale native Saundra Weathers decided on the car ride to tour Florida A&M University that she would study journalism. She wrote for her high school newspaper and had a natural interest in what was going on around her. “I don’t like to say nosy; I like to say curious. I was always very curious. I want to know more,” she said.
That’s how the Spectrum Bay News 9 reporter launched her news career. Admittedly, she wasn’t always a model student. “There’s a saying at FAMU; that it’s FAMU-ly and it truly is a family,” Weathers said. “I had some of my professors rein me in and say, ‘Listen girl, get it together.’”
Initially, she wanted to be an entertainment reporter. But after interviewing some celebrities, she realized she didn’t enjoy it. Then, thanks to one of her professors, she fell in love with hard news.
Weathers worked at FAMU’s radio station and an internship led to her being hired for an on-air television reporting job for WCTV, a CBS affiliate, during her junior year. “By that time there was no stopping me,” she said.
She stayed with the station for a few months after graduating before deciding it was time to move on. “If you know anything about living in a college town after you graduate, you feel so old,” she said. “It was time for me to go.”
“Before I graduated, I naively told my sister I was moving to Atlanta right out of college and getting a job in news,” Weathers said. “That was not true. So I was trying to figure out what was the most realistic path news wise and also near the water I love so much.”
She hoped one day to get to the Tampa Bay area, the largest market in Florida, but first she landed at WBBH, an NBC affiliate in Fort Myers. She worked there for two years covering four counties in Southwest Florida. “I knew I had to make a stop before” getting to Tampa, she said. But Tampa was “the No. 1 in the state. It’s where I wanted to be.”
Once her career hit the five-year mark, Weathers was hired by Spectrum Bay News 9 and she moved to Polk County. “It was very interesting. It’s great for news. You can’t even make it up the stuff that happens there. And there were great people in Polk County,” she said. “There wasn’t a lot to do, but workwise, it was fantastic.”
After about three years, she moved over to the media outlet’s main office in St. Petersburg to work the night shift. “That means covering everything from every single county,” she said. “Wherever the news happens, you go.”
She remained in that role until 2020, when she launched the Justice for All beat for Spectrum, focusing on issues of equity, inclusion and disparities in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis.
During the protests surrounding Floyd’s murder, Weathers and her boss at the time “had long, hard conversations about the coverage and being intentional,” she said. “After some back and forth, I got the green light. I said, ‘Listen, I want to do these stories and do them in a way that makes a difference.’”
Weathers has always been drawn to social justice stories, but with this current beat, they’re her sole focus.
To start, she made a list of potential story ideas. But it wasn’t long before the stories were coming to her and members of the community were suggesting topics to cover.
One of her early stories focused on the arrests of Black children in the local juvenile justice system and how many were sent to adult prisons compared to children of other races. “The difference was astronomical,” she said.
She also focused on stories about representation in various fields, such as Black male educators. “I looked at the numbers and was astounded,” Weathers said.
She focuses on the good news too, she added.
She’s also been amazed by the action that’s been taken in the community because of her reporting. In one story, she looked at the reading scores of Black students, which were set back even further because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She recalls Spectrum creating a graphic around these scores that was widely shared on social media. This was gratifying for Weathers as she read the posts that accompanied these shares. The data backed up what many followers already seemed to know anecdotally. “It was like, ‘We’ve been saying this; now there’s the proof,’” she said. “When you have that type of reporting and so much response, it leaves so much opportunity for resolution.”
After that story came out, a number of organizations and individuals created reading programs “to try to close the gap for African American students,” she said, adding that it was “a real catalyst for change and people making a difference.”
Weathers has also reported extensively on Black maternal health, a topic that is “near and dear” to her. After airing a special on the issue last year, she received tremendous feedback from viewers in both the Tampa and Orlando areas.
“After it aired, a woman reached out to me and said, ‘Listen, I lost a child during birth. I already have a nonprofit, but I want to do more. This special was the kick I needed to do more,’” Weathers said.
Months later, the woman called back to say she launched an ongoing series of town hall meetings with health care and nonprofit leaders to discuss how to lower infant and maternal mortality rates in the Black community. “It led to this huge conversation in the Tampa Bay area,” Weathers said.
This year, the University of South Florida is even hosting a series of talks and other events, as well as offering mothers various resources, from April 11-17 for Black Maternal Health Week. “It’s really amazing to see how this conversation is now spreading like wildfire,” she said.
She’s touched by the momentum that stemmed from her stories. “I embrace my humanity in my reporting. I never try to tell a story as a robot. There is always a human behind that and I try to let that come out in my reporting. I’m not biased; I’m human,” she said. “I hope people feel that when they see that, that when they reach out to me, they know that’s coming from a place of someone who wants to help. I do this 100 percent to help people.”

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