Students launch social justice-focused reporting lab

The Docket is a data-driven media lab focused on criminal, social, and economic justice issues, based out of the Media Innovation graduate program at Northeastern University. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Three Northeastern graduate students have launched The Docket, a reporting lab and website that serves as a platform for student- and community-driven journalism with an eye toward social and criminal justice.

The students—Priyanka Ketkar, MA’18, Brilee Weaver, MA’18, and Emily Hopkins, MA’17—said The Docket is inspired by the type of important social justice reporting that formed the foundation of Homicide Watch Boston, a nonprofit, Northeastern-based website for which Ketkar previously served as co-editor. The Docket, they said, builds upon the Homicide Watch Boston’s work by putting greater emphasis on incorporating community stories in local news coverage.

“Meeting the people and families of those affected by homicides made me realize how a homicide is a culmination of several factors in society and how it has very deep effects on the society in turn,” Ketkar said.

Added Hopkins: “This is about identifying problems and working together to find solutions.” She compared the spirit of The Docket to that of The Atlantic’s CityLab and the nonprofit The Marshall Project—both of which emphasize activism-based reporting.

Still in its infancy, The Docket is currently populated largely by student journalism that expands beyond the bounds of campus. But Weaver and others say that there’s plenty of room to grow.

“This is like buying a plot of land, building a foundation, and now seeing a good frame of the house,” Weaver said. “Being part of that process has been really rewarding. My main goal, though, would be to see us engage in really compelling investigations and thorough reporting—I see the site as a resource for social, economic, and criminal justice issues in Boston that ties back to our home ground here in Roxbury and Mission Hill, these local neighborhoods.”

Designating The Docket as a “justice reporting lab” gives it room to develop into something unexpected, Hopkins noted.

“This could go so many different places; it could develop into a whole new universe from where we’re starting here,” she said. “We’re willing to be surprised.”

One thing that is core to The Docket’s foundation, however, is its commitment to sharing authentic community stories and voices.

“We have to acknowledge the fact that oftentimes, just because of the nature of college campuses, student journalists parachute in to different communities and try to tell other peoples’ stories for them,” Weaver said. “We really want this site to reflect these communities authentically, allow them to collaborate with us, and have their voice in the media that’s covering them.”