By Sarah Tietje-Mietz
Photo by Jennifer Angeloro/Francesca Photographers
It has been pouring for days in Syracuse, but when Iris St. Meran and Jennifer Sanders walk into Mello Velo Cafe at 790 Canal St., their smiles and positive energy seem to clear the clouds away. A genuine warmth radiates from the two and the special connection these women share is immediately evident.
A palpable and powerful momentum has been created by this friendship. Both women are prominent Syracuse-area news anchors working at competing networks. Sanders is the morning news anchor at NewsChannel 9 WSYR-TV, while St. Meran is an anchor with Spectrum News – Central New York. They recognize that friendships like this can be a rare thing in such a competitive field, and there is not always camaraderie or support, especially from other females. These two are the exception.
In 2018, the two started a podcast called The Ladies’ Room with the goal of featuring “inspirational ladies who are making an impact. We want to provide inspiration and information in The Ladies’ Room,” according to the podcast homepage.
“It’s really just sitting down and having this positive and uplifting conversation,” Sanders said.
“People are so inspired by listening to the guests, listening to their journeys.”
With this podcast, Sanders and St. Meran have created an opportunity to work side-by-side as co-hosts instead of competitors. Together they interview other formidable females from across the globe. They have interviewed such powerhouses as award-winning news anchor Jackie Robinson, supermodel and body-positivity activist Emme and, for an upcoming episode, former editor-in-chief of Essence Magazine Susan Taylor, a personal inspiration to both St. Meran and Sanders.
“When we sit down with a guest, we are always inspired,” said Sanders. “We always take different nuggets, different gems from what they talk about and we’re able to apply to our own lives. These women… have been through a lot and they have achieved greatness.”
Sanders and St. Meran met during a breaking news report at a local fire. Quickly they found common ground — both were transplants to the Syracuse area, and they’re some of the only women of color reporting on local news stations.
“I was excited [to meet Jennifer] because at the time the market was not very diverse,” St. Meran said. “As far as ethnicity, the only person, really, was Jackie Robinson. So I saw her on TV and was like ‘Oh my goodness. I’m not the only one!’ So I think I went up to [Jennifer] and was like ‘Hey, black girl, do you want to be friends?'”
“And we were!” Sanders said said with a laugh.
“It was an immediate thing,” St. Meran said. “And she has stuck with me.”
Raised by a single mother in a suburb just outside of Boston, St. Meran found her voice through performing with her local church, and always had a passion for writing and public speaking.
“I wanted to be Oprah. I wanted to have a talk show,” St. Meran said. “I was just naturally curious and asked a lot of questions.”
St. Meran pursued her degree in journalism at Emerson College in Boston, and found guidance and direction when she started working at New England Cable News, now NBC Boston.
Growing up in a military family meant multiple moves to locations around the globe during Sanders’ childhood, but eventually her family settled in Texas, which Sanders calls home. As a child, Sanders first dreamed of being a veterinarian, then had the very specific dream of being the dean of students at Spelman College, one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) located in Atlanta.
“But then after that, I knew that I loved to meet people, I loved writing stories, I loved to read,” Sanders said. “So to couple all that together, journalism made sense.” Sanders pursued a degree in mass communications and Spanish from Texas Lutheran University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of North Texas.
Though their childhoods differed, their career paths and personal goals were aligned. Both worked their way up through the ranks in the media industry, doing everything from writing, filming, and editing before taking their place in front of the camera. Personally, they both know the power and importance of giving back to their communities.
Aside from their individual service to local organizations, Sanders and St. Meran have been jointly volunteering with at the Institute of Technology at Syracuse City School District. Working with teacher Jeffrey Newell and his ninth-grade Media Communications class, St. Meran and Sanders have been mentoring these students as they learn about the field of media journalism.
“We were there just to provide insight and just to be there for them. We are trying to be the me’s we wish we had,” said St. Meran. “The fact that they can say…’oh, there’s Jennifer Sanders,’ or ‘there’s Iris St. Meran. She looks like me, and she’s my mentor.'”
On The Ladies’ Room, they ask each guest the same question: What would you tell your younger self? What advice would these two offer young Jennifer and young Iris?
“Go for it. Don’t be scared. Just go for it. And achieve greatness, because it lies within you,” Sanders said.
“And you have everything you need already,” St. Meran added. “You. Are. Enough.”