To kick off our third series of ’10 minutes with’ interviews, Hopps tells us about her career switch into journalism and exposing the treatment of donkeys in Mali, as well as breaking one of the ’10 minutes with’ rules…
How did you get into journalism?
Journalism is my second career. I worked in the charity sector for seven years but always harboured a desire to become a journalist and writer. After obtaining my NCTJ course, I took a circuitous route into the industry as I was still unsure what I wanted to do. It’s not something I would necessarily recommend! I started in lifestyle journalism, working for the luxury print title ‘The Resident’ in London. It was great fun and I got to interview celebrities and write about culture and food – I even travelled to Brazil and Mauritius on press trips.
I felt there was a news reporter deep down inside me, so I moved to east London and worked for the Newham Recorder. The borough was a demanding yet stimulating news patch. I covered crime, local politics, housing, culture, and everything in-between. There was never a dull day!
Since then, I’ve worked as an SEO reporter for Express Online, and now I’m a feature writer at the Daily Express where I write a mixture of topical stories. Features is where I’m happiest, although sometimes I miss the buzz of news!
Why does journalism matter?
Journalism has the power to transform lives and effect change. It helps people understand the issues and gives a voice to the powerless. I realised this first-hand as a local newspaper journalist writing stories about people living in terrible housing conditions.
Best scoop (yours or someone else’s)?
The best scoop of 2021 has to be The Sun’s expose of Matt Hancock’s affair with his aide, Gina Coladangelo.
I’m still really proud of some of my front-page scoops from when I was a Newham Recorder reporter. On one occasion, I revealed how a local hospital trust had incorrectly stored foetal remains (resulting from pregnant loss or termination) at one of its hospitals in disregard of the wishes of the women concerned.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m planning lots of interviews for the new year: some are with celebrities, others are with regular people doing quirky or incredible things. I love the variety and never know what’s coming next.
Career highlight so far?
I travelled to Bamako, the capital of Mali in West Africa, at the end of 2019 to report on the plight of its donkeys as the city’s official rubbish collectors. The animals worked in dirty, hot and horrific conditions on the towering rubbish dumps. The story resonated with our readers.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
I’m going to cheat and give two pieces of advice:
- Read, read, read! Read as many other journalists’ work as possible and read as widely as possible on both sides of the political spectrum to fully understand an issue. Always do so with a critical eye. See how different writers approach similar issues and what they do differently. What was good about the piece, or writing, and how could it be bettered?
- Pick up the phone or meet in person if you can as you will get so much more out of it than an email. Often the best conversations and quotes come from hidden cues. People also self-edit when they write so their words are more likely to be staid and boring than in a naturally flowing conversation. I do generally prefer the phone but I still have times when I don’t feel like doing it. I never regret it afterwards though.
Who or what inspires you most?
People who keep going through setbacks to carry on. Life is a slog sometimes but it’s so inspiring to witness people who refuse to give up when they are knocked back. It makes the achievement, however big or small, much more worthwhile.
Who would be your fantasy dinner party guests and why?
I’d love to hear Michelle Obama and Dolly Parton’s musings on life along with their words of wisdom. Graham Norton and Bill Murray for the laughs, and Bill Bryson to hear about the fun tales from his travels.
How do you switch off from work?
Yoga, walking, reading, socialising. I miss travelling too!
Gym or gin?
I would say gym but there are times when only a gin will do.
If I wasn’t a journalist, I would be…
Something practical or active in the outdoors.