Shavonne Potts: Students source of questions, inspiration
Each school year, hundreds of fourth graders from each of the Rowan County elementary schools tour the Salisbury Post. It’s a longstanding tradition that gives students a glimpse into what happens behind the scenes at the Post. Some of the staff shy away from the tour for one reason or another, but I rather enjoy it. It’s an opportunity for students to meet the people who have a hand in making the Salisbury Post.
Editor Elizabeth Cook will sometimes guide the tour or other reporters will lead students through the building. Most tour guides will stop and begin with “do you have a minute?”
I always seem to find a minute. “I don’t mind,” I tell them.
The reason I don’t mind talking to students is because I see it in their eyes. I see the students have a glimmer of excitement and a thirst for knowledge. I had the same look around their age when I discovered I could check out 10 books at a time from my public library (I know, I’m a nerd). But if I can inspire someone to become a writer, then I’ll find a minute. If I can inspire a child to think about what they want to do beyond the fourth grade, I’ll make the time.
Around the Post, we like to make the tour interesting by letting students try their hand at being a reporter. They take turns asking the reporters questions.
Maybe I’m biased, but I’d have to say I think I have one of the most exciting beats. Students seem to love the crime beat. It’s just something about the crime beat that piques the student’s interest.
I can’t lie, the things the students find fascinating are the same things that I find fascinating about this beat as well. The students want to know what’s the most exciting thing I’ve covered or they want to know if I’ve ever been scared to go to a scene and some of them just want to know how much I make. I believe what they really want to know is if crime reporting is anything like what they see on television. I quickly tell them that nothing about this job is like you’d find on any CSI or Hawaii Five-O show. The court cases take years, the accident victims don’t get up during the commercial break and not all of the people arrested are a mirror image of those placed in handcuffs on an episode of COPS. The crimes and the people we report about are real.
I try to give students an idea of what it’s like to be a crime reporter. I recently participated in career day at Overton Elementary School. I created a video of my day — start to finish. Then I challenged the students to recall as many things as they could from the video. I was surprised at the questions the video sparked and that familiar glimmer of excitement in their eyes. Last week, I received a package filled with thank you cards from some Overton students.
Apparently I inspired some of the students to consider a career in journalism, particularly crime reporting. One student, Heavenlee, said she was inspired and thought crime reporting sounded interesting. She even drew the front page of the Salisbury Post. Thanks Heavenlee, you rock too.
The cards made me chuckle, like one from Timia, who drew a pot because my last name is Potts. Yes, Timia, I get the joke. Some of them even included funny moments from my presentation to them. One student, Autumn, wrote me a joke on the back of her card.
The students asked a lot of great questions as they often do while on tour at the Post, but one student, Angie, asked a lot of questions. I didn’t mind though because she had some really great ones. She even included a few more questions in her card, one of which was “do I like my job?”
Well, Angie, I love my job. There are days when it’s difficult and there’s days where everything falls into place. The best part about my job is getting to meet so many new people. I’m a people person and I like to talk — a lot. This job lets me meet people, learn about what they do and share that with readers. I love that I’m able to share someone’s story of survival or share a person’s triumph over a tragic loss.
I get to meet dignitaries, doctors, lawyers, law enforcement, company presidents, everyday citizens and students like the ones at Overton. These children say they were inspired by me, but I am inspired by them. I’m in awe of their thirst for something new and their excitement about newspapers and writing.
Tyreke said he liked my career and wanted to know if I talk to my friends while I’m at work. There are days, like Monday, when I barely have time to eat lunch. We are allowed to have personal phone calls, Tyreke, but most reporters try to keep them to a minimum. He also asked me if it takes me a long time to get to a crime scene. Well, it depends on where the crime is. The longest it’s taken me is 45 minutes and the shortest is right outside the Post.
Sophie said she wants to be a chef and through my presentation she was inspired to “keep going” until she reaches her goal and to “be prepared.”
Sophie, when you become a chef, just remember my favorite dish is macaroni and cheese.
Ariel asked me how I do all of this stuff without going crazy? Coffee.
No, seriously there are some days when I don’t get it all done. There are days when my editor expects a story and it doesn’t happen and there are some days the sun sets and I’m still banging away on my keyboard trying to make deadline.
Jada said she wants to be a newspaper reporter because it looked like fun, but asked me if my job is hard. Yes, it is sometimes. It’s hard to ask people to recall what maybe the worst day of their lives. While some days are just long, sometimes I barely have time to finish a story before I’m working on another. As my co-worker, Andy Mooney would say, crime happens.
Lexy asked me how many years of school did I have to attend for my career. Lexy, I went to the University of South Carolina and spent nearly five years there. I received a degree in journalism and mass communications with an emphasis on print writing.
Brittany said she liked that I get to take pictures and she drew a picture of me. Thanks Brittany — you made me look tall in your drawing. One student, Hailee, said she wanted to be me when she grew up. First of all, that is so sweet. Hailee, you are a doll. To Hailee, if you’re reading this, just be you because you’re pretty awesome.
The students each named something they enjoyed about writing or crime reporting. I can’t really answer why students like the crime beat so much. It’s a culmination of lots of things, but it gets them thinking about their future and how they see themselves and that’s all I need to know.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.
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