Journalism graduate student Emily Hopkins wants you to test your criminal justice knowledge? As part of her production internship/co-op at The Marshall Project Hopkins is creating interactive quizzes designed to test your knowledge about criminal justice issues. The first two quizzes ask, “Would You Waive Your Miranda Rights – And would you know it if you did?” and “Are Older People Getting Harsher Sentences? Take Our Quiz to Find Out.” With this project, she hopes to make complicated topics in criminal justice more interesting as well as educational.
Hopkins answers a few questions about her project.
Q: What inspired you to focus on this project:
A: The Marshall Project had built a quiz tool that they hadn’t really had time to use. There were only a few quizzes on the site when I arrived. Given my interest in interactive media, we decided that it would be a good area for me to explore. It turns out that it’s kind of hard to make a quiz interesting, so it raised a lot of questions. For example, what do we want the reader to learn? What do we want them to feel? And how can we provide an enriched experience that goes past a test of someone’s trivia knowledge?
Q: What do you hope you and your audience learns from this project?
A: I hope that we’ll be able to tap into an audience that perhaps isn’t as inclined to read an article about criminal justice legal procedure. If you’re not going to read a straight piece about that topic, maybe you’ll take a quiz about your Miranda rights or the death penalty. People can be curious to know what they don’t know – or show off what they do know. It’s also a way to make a really dense or dry subject palatable to folks who aren’t going to wade through that information. My first quiz culled information from a Bureau of Justice Statistics report on aging inmates. The report was just number after number – even I had trouble getting through it. With the quiz, we hoped to create an experience that would keep the reader engaged all the way through.
Q: What is the audience reaction so far?
A: A lot of the feedback I’ve seen has been “wow! I didn’t answer all the questions right and I’m surprised at the answers.” The criminal justice system is opaque by design, and it’s easy to think you know what’s going on based only on common sense. That’s often not the case, and that surprises people.
Q: How is your co-op at The Marshall Project going so far?
A: Despite what we say about our own industry, right now is a great time to be a journalist. The money question is always going to be tough, but methods of storytelling at our disposal grow more diverse all the time. The Marshall Project seems really excited about that. They’re always thinking about using data and graphics to tell stories, and they’re developing tools to help them report stories more efficiently, sometimes faster than newsrooms twice the size. And then, on the other side of the coin is good, old fashioned reporting. The two meet in interesting ways. It’s exciting.
Photo of Emily Hopkins.