Updated: Oct 14, 2021
Storyteller: Sandra Sobieraj Westfall
You? Again?” joked President George W. Bush, at the threshold of Laura’s puzzle room in the White House residence. “You’re like a bad head cold!” In 20 years as, first, White House correspondent for The Associated Press, and now Washington correspondent for PEOPLE Magazine, Sandra Sobieraj Westfall has been called a lot of names: head cold; Sonya; AP girl; Barney-Cam Reporter. And, courtesy of some in Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, “Bitch on the Bus.” (That one you can actually Google.) But the one that charms her almost as much as Bush’s “head cold” comes from a colleague: “Sandra’s the Barbara Walters of print journalism,” CBS News anchor Norah O’Donnell once said.
Fifty-five women joined Night Out With Meaning on February 27, 2013 featuring Sandra Sobieraj Westfall. Sandra talked about the art of storytelling as a seasoned journalist. Sandra was generous with her time, with her thoughts and with her stories. She guided us on the journey that is her career in storytelling.
Westfall, a mom living in Lawrenceville, New Jersey with her former Secret Service agent/Navy diver husband and their second-grader, Jonathan, has seen a lot far beyond the Washington Beltway and Jersey Suburbs–Michelle and Barack Obama’s Chicago kitchen; Bill Clinton’s private plane to rural China; Sarah Palin’s Wasilla living room for Eskimo bingo after Bristol’s high school graduation; Anthony Weiner’s baby nursery for the disgraced congressman’s first interview since his Twitter scandal; the kitchen of Elin Woods’ rental home on the eve of her divorce from Tiger. And, perhaps most poignantly, Elizabeth Edwards’ bedside.
Westfall’s stories on the pages—and covers—of PEOPLE led the magazine’s parent company, Time Inc., to inaugurate a company-wide Most Valuable Performer award for her in 2011. The White House Correspondents’ Association has also twice given her its Merriman-Smith Award for Excellence in Presidential News Coverage Under Deadline Pressure, for her behind-the-scenes accounts of the historic 2000 (Bush-Gore) and 2008 (Obama) Election Nights. Westfall has a Bachelor’s degree in politics from Princeton University and a Master’s in journalism from Stanford. She also has two Shih-tzus named Claymore and Scrabble.