Sandra Pinckney's childhood years living in many countries and learning about different people and cultures left her with an open and genuine interest in other people and unfamiliar places. This interest, along with a warm and enthusiastic nature, led her into a public career in broadcast journalism. Like her childhood, her career has taken her to unique and unusual places, from the anchor chair in a television newsroom to a roadshow that took her across the country, exploring the best in American cuisine.
"There are people in television news who went to journalism school and learned how to write stories," Pinckney told Bridget Meeds in an interview on the Ithaca College Web site. "I never went to journalism school, but with my liberal arts background I knew how to tell stories. I had an interest in a lot of different things, especially in people. I was able to get people to talk to me and tell their stories with emotion." Pinckney's ability to reach for the interesting story that lay just below the surface of events has provided her with a remarkable and varied career.
Pinckney's father was a career military officer. Young Sandra, her sister, and their two brothers spent their earliest years living in various places around the United States. When her father joined the Foreign Service, his family accompanied him to various countries in Europe and Asia. While still a girl, Sandra Pinckney had lived in France, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. Rather than finding her family's lifestyle unsettling, Pinckney thrived on the adventure of travel. She loved the many beautiful places they lived and longed to see more. Though she grew up around the world, she gained a sense of stability from her family, especially from her close relationship with her mother and visits to her grandmother's home in South Carolina, where the extended family often gathered for holidays.
In 1966, when it was time to choose a college, Pinckney picked a small American school, Ithaca College in upstate New York. After her worldly upbringing, Ithaca College appealed to Pinckney because of its atmosphere of small-town Americana. She continued to express her interest in the wide variety of people and their societies by choosing a double major of sociology, the study of society, and anthropology, the study of the history and cultures of human beings. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1970.
Pinckney continued her education after graduation from Ithaca College. She lived in Paris for a time, studying French civilization at the Sorbonne, then returned to the United States to take classes at Howard University and the University of Pennsylvania. She married fellow Ithaca College graduate Benne Hubert (they later divorced), and had one daughter, named Ainah.
In 1976, Pinckney's graduate studies earned her a fellowship which included a brief job in Los Angeles, working on the Code and Rating Board of the Motion Picture Association of America. While learning about the rating process, she participated in cinema history by being part of the board that gave the first Star Wars film its PG rating.
The next year, back on the East coast, Pinckney was hired as a management trainee at WJZ-TV in Baltimore, part of the station's program to place more African-American women in high-level jobs. She worked for WJZ for the next 18 years. Though she started out behind the scenes, producing a daily talk show called People Are Talking, and a weekly news program called Evening Magazine, Pinckney soon felt that she would like to try working in front of the camera. Unsure how to make the transition, she happened to meet prominent television personality Oprah Winfrey, who encouraged her to assert herself and tell station management what she wanted to do. Pinckney took Winfrey's advice and was soon reporting on-camera for Evening Magazine.
During the next few years, Pinckney moved to the WJZ newsroom, where she worked, first as a reporter, then as anchor for the midday news. In 1995 she left WJZ to take a job as main news anchor at WMAR, another Baltimore television station. According to an agreement with the station, she could not take a job at another local station for a year, but WMAR was so anxious to hire Pinckney that they paid her salary during the waiting period. While at WMAR she also honed her interviewing skills hosting a program called Up Close and Personal, about local celebrities.
Her work on local television soon drew the interest of national networks, and over the next four years she hosted several nationally syndicated programs. These included Encounters: The Hidden Truth, a FOX network program featuring people who claimed to have had contact with aliens from outer space, and SOS in America, a syndicated NBC show which warned viewers of a variety of little-known dangers.
In 2000, Pinckney received an appealing job offer. The cable channel Food Network hired her to host Food Finds, a program which gave her the opportunity to do some of the things she loved most: travel, eat, and meet people. As host of Food Finds, Pinckney journeyed around the U.S. highlighting beloved local restaurants, bakeries, and culinary specialties in communities throughout the country.
Pinckney had long been a lover of good cooking and traditional cuisine. Growing up around the world had broadened her tastes and her sense of adventure about trying new foods, and her South Carolina grandmother had taught her the value of old-fashioned cooking with fresh ingredients. The Food Network job seemed custom-made for a host like Pinckney, with her enthusiasm for meeting people and her love of trying new things.
After several years on Food Finds, Pinckney left the Food Network to host a similar show on Turner South, the southern branch of the Turner Broadcasting System. Having settled in Charlotte, North Carolina, Pinckney felt reconnected to her Southern roots and enjoyed her new job as host of Turner South's program Blue Ribbon.
Much as Food Finds did, Blue Ribbon, which bills itself "The Best of the South," highlights local specialties and typically Southern places, from spas to breweries. As the show's latest host, Sandra Pinckney continues to do the work that interests her most, learning as much as she can about a wide variety of people and their cultures.
At a Glance …
Born Sandra Pinckney in California; married Benne Hubert (divorced); daughter: Ainah. Education: Ithaca College, BA in sociology and anthropology, 1970.
Career: WJZ-TV, management trainee, news producer, reporter, and anchor, 1977–1995; WMAR-TV, news anchor and producer, 1996; FOX Network, on-air host, Encounters: The Hidden Truth, 1996–99; NBC Domestic Syndication, anchor, SOS in America, 1999–2000; The Food Network, anchor, Food Finds, 2000–2005; Turner South Network, anchor, Blue Ribbon, 2005–.
Addresses: Office—Turner South Network, 1050 Tech-wood Drive, Atlanta, Georgia 30318.
Afro-American Red Star. December 25, 1993, p. B6; July 1, 1995, p. A1.
"Bio: Sandra Pinckney," Food Network, www.foodnetwork.com/food/sandra_pinckney/0,1974,FOOD_9943,00.html (September 16, 2005).
Meeds, Bridget, "One Scrumptious Job," Ithaca College, www.ithaca.edu/icq/2005v1/cn/job.htm (September 16, 2005).
Pinckney, Sandra, "Down Home Delights," Baltimore Sun, www.baltimoresun.com/features/custom/unisun/bal-un.pinckney0206,1,5777821.story?coll=bal-unisun-utility (September 16, 2005).
"Sandra Pinckney," Turner South, www.turnersouth.com/network/shows/blue-ribbon/hosts/article/0,,4939,00.html (September 16, 2005).
Stewart, Graham, "Food Network Host to Keynote Professionals Symposium," Ithaca College, www.ithaca.edu/intercom/article.php/20040917100416966 (September 16, 2005).
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