Eric and Allison recently had an opportunity to sit down with Hannah Smoot, one of the newest reporters on staff at the Charlotte Observer. Hannah shared all about her background in journalism, thoughts on the future of the newspaper industry, and some fun stories she’s covered in the past. Check it out!
Tell us about yourself… where are you from, and what brought you to Charlotte?
I grew up in Raleigh and went to college at UNC – Chapel Hill. When I graduated in 2017, I went straight to Rock Hill for a job with the Rock Hill Herald. I worked down there for a couple of years for the same company that owns the Charlotte Observer, so I had been working closely with some of the editors and reporters in Charlotte. I really loved living in Charlotte and being part of the community, so I wanted to get up here as soon as possible. When this job opened up, I just had to apply for it and had to get into Charlotte… so its been really great being able to live and work in the same place!
What beats did you focus in Rock Hill, and what will you be covering here?
In Rock Hill, I was focused mostly on politics and business. Now here in Charlotte, I’m on the business desk focusing on healthcare and aviation, and a little bit of retail as well. Its definitely a lot different than what I was doing… but the reason I was so comfortable making the shift is because I always liked taking hard to understand topics and translating it to how it affects people in their everyday lives. I think there’s a lot of opportunities to do that in all of these beats, especially in Charlotte.
So now that you’re here in Charlotte… what does your day to day look like?
I’m still figuring that out! It’s still new, so it’s a lot of reaching out to different PR people or spokespeople and meeting them. Right now, I’m really focused on building relationships in the community. I’m planning on being in Charlotte for quite a while, so I wanted to take the time to build up those relationships and get to know people.
Knowing that the media landscape has changed dramatically in recent years, what do you think the future of the traditional newspaper industry looks like?
Of course, I think digital is going to be so important… we’ve already seen that in other industries. I’ve seen this in covering retail, since this is something that retailers are focused on. People are going online to shop… people are going online to read our news… people are going online to do everything. So I think it’s going to be very important for us to figure out how we can get our news to people while also building a community online. For years, people would sit down at the kitchen table and read the newspaper on a Sunday morning, and we have to learn how to create that same effect online.
What’s one of the most memorable stories you’ve worked on during your career as a journalist?
There’s been a couple of interesting ones… One of my favorite that I really enjoyed was actually one of my first stories in Rock Hill. I got to report on the BMX World Championships that was held in Rock Hill a couple years ago. So as a part of that, I got to go and ride a BMX bike down the track… which is TERRIFYING, but also a lot of fun! I did wipe out (my editor told me before I left that I wasn’t allowed to break anything ?) I did sprain my ankle, but otherwise it was a lot fun. Personally, I really enjoy those stories when I can go out, get hands-on, and try something new.