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Northeastern student wins prestigious Google News Lab Fellowship

Emily Hopkins has always been keen on holding the powerful accountable, on exposing how government systems work and who they work for, and on finding creative ways to tell those stories. So, when she got a call saying she’d been one of only eight students accepted into the Google News Lab Fellowship program, she saw it as an opportunity to combine all her passions—and learn a lot along the way.

Hopkins, MA’17, will spend this summer working with Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc., a grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of investigative reporting. There, she hopes to help mine datasets for compelling story ideas, especially those focusing on social justice issues.

“I’ve always had a passion for this data-heavy arena,” Hopkins said. “And really, what better place to go than IRE? They were doing data journalism before ‘data journalism’ was a thing.”

“I was originally interested in journalism for the idea that I can help people understand the systems that govern their lives. That’s why I get up in the morning; for work like that.”

Emily Hopkins MA'17

More than sifting through data, however, Hopkins is drawn to telling stories and examining issues that matter to people’s lives. As a graduate student in the School of Journalism’s Media Innovation program, she worked at The Marshall Project—a nonprofit news organization committed to reporting on criminal justice—and the New England Center for Investigative Reporting—a news outlet focused on in-depth reporting that serves the public interest. Both are experiences that have served to strengthen Hopkins’ resolve toward investigative, social justice journalism.

“I would say I have a profound sense of justice,” Hopkins said. “I feel that powerful people need to be held accountable. I was originally interested in journalism for the idea that I can help people understand the systems that govern their lives. That’s why I get up in the morning; for work like that.”

In order to tell these stories, however, Hopkins felt she would need more than just the written word. That’s why she chose Northeastern, where she’s been able to hone her digital storytelling skills in classes that have focused on data visualization and design.

To that end, Hopkins and some of her peers in the Media Innovation program have been working on starting an online social justice magazine. Dubbed The Docket, the magazine would live on past their time at Northeastern as a place for other students to publish their work in a compelling format.

It’s this type of textured storytelling, backed by in-depth reporting, that she hopes to sharpen this summer at the Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. The organization’s headquarters, in Columbia, Missouri, also drew Hopkins to the nonprofit.

“I’m looking forward to getting away from the East Coast and getting outside the liberal bubble here,” she said. “The past few months have shown that there needs to be a shift in the news industry; that we need a better understanding of who lives in these large, rural towns, and what issues are important to them. I’m excited that I’ll get to tell those stories and be part of that effort.”

Hopkins’ fellowship marks the second time Northeastern will be represented at Google News in as many years. In 2016, School of Journalism student Jorge Caraballo Cordovez was selected for a position at Matter, a San Francisco-based accelerator for media startups.