The Society of Professional Journalists has awarded Erika D. Smith, Sacramento Bee editorial board member and columnist, the 2017 award for general column writing for newspapers with circulation of 100,000 or more.
Smith tells compelling and nuanced stories about people who are underdogs trying to find their way in a society that has passed them by. She regularly uses her voice to write about the human struggle of homeless people, as she did when telling the story of a woman who tried to kill herself rather than go back to sleeping on the streets.
“You’d never know the woman in pink was chronically homeless,” she wrote.
Writing from her hometown of Cleveland during the Republican National Convention, Smith caught up with an old friend, a black police officer, who spoke to her about preparing for potential violence at a time when cops were being targeted and shot.
“You can see both sides of the equation. I’ve been on both sides of the equation,” he told her.
Another column focused on whether minorities, who bore the brunt of the failed war on drugs, would benefit from the new legal cannabis business.
A fourth was about how the Sacramento police botched the handling of the officer-involved shooting of a mentally ill man named Joseph Mann.
One of her most powerful columns was about the recovery of Desiree Salazar, a formerly homeless meth addict who lost her son, baby Sivam Lekh, to SIDS.
Smith came to The Bee in 2015 from the Indianapolis Star, where she had been a columnist. The Bee and our city are fortunate to have her voice. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @Erika_D_Smith.