For this week’s Media Monday, we’d like you to meet LaVendrick Smith, breaking news reporter at The Charlotte Observer. His work has also appeared in publications including The Washington Post and The Seattle Times.
1. How did you find yourself at The Charlotte Observer?
I found my job online at journalismjobs.com and applied. I never expected to get it, but I felt I was ready for the next step and a first job in journalism. I had been interning for about 9 months straight at the time, first at The Washington Post, and then at the Tampa Bay Times. It felt like the right time to take the skills I had learned in school and through internships and start my career. Thankfully, one of the editors liked my application and reached out to me. It’s been a great experience so far in the few months I’ve been here.
2. Which of your stories are you most proud of?
I recently did a story about a drunk driver who was a repeat offender before killing a 79-year-old grandmother. She had been arrested three times for driving drunk, and I was curious as to why she was able to legally drive at the time of her fatal crash. I did somewhat of an investigative piece and found out the two states — Charlotte is somewhat on the border of North and South Carolina — had not reported a conviction she had. Stories like that really emphasize why I became a journalist. It allows me to hold people accountable, and I hope to do more work like that going forward in my career.
3. What is your favorite thing about your job?
I like how I’m always learning something new. Journalism is a changing industry, and we’re reporting things in different ways now. With that comes the ability to learn new skills, and that’s what I appreciate most about my job.
4. What is your interview style?
I like to be very conversational when I interview someone so that they feel comfortable. This is especially essential for covering breaking news, as a lot of times I’m speaking with victims of very horrible crimes and acts, and I always want to convey that I care about what someone is going through, and that I’m not just looking for quotes.
5. What do you look for in a story?
I look for the story’s relevance and consider if it’ll have an impact on someone. I want to make sure I’m doing stories that resonate with people, whether it makes them look at something in a new way or makes them laugh. I always want readers to feel like they get something from my stories.
6. What is your day like at your job?
My day starts at 7 a.m., and I spend most of it mining social media for ideas and to see what people are talking about each day, and how I can make it relevant to Charlotte. Other than that, a lot of what I do is cover breaking news in the city, specifically crime stories. When I’m doing neither of those things, I’m looking for enterprise stories to write, like the drunk driver one, that I think would resonate well with readers.
7. Who do you most look up to in the journalism industry?
I have several people I look up to in journalism today. At the moment, I’m always fascinated by the reporting from David Fahrenthold at The Washington Post. I met him last year at the start of my internship at The Washington Post, and he told me about his days as a Post intern covering the same beat I covered as a Post intern. It has been truly inspirational to see the kind of reporter he is today, and I aspire to have his type of skill set one day.
8. What is your favorite news outlet?
Outside of the Observer, I’ve been extremely impressed with the reporting The New York Times and Washington Post have had, particularly in recent months covering the Trump administration, so I’d say those two outlets. We live in a really inspiring time for journalism, and they’re reporting the right way.
9. Fill in the blank:
- If I am not reporting, I am…watching Netflix or Tweeting, probably about the Dallas Cowboys.
- If I could interview anyone, it would be…Martin Luther King Jr.
10. What is your guilty pleasure?
Netflix and procrastinating on going to the gym.