A photo of a woman from the waist up standing in a room with three computer monitors on desks, and red chairs.
Emily Richardson is one of 29 fellows selected for Carnegie-Knight News21, a national reporting initiative headquartered at Arizona State University. (Thomas Kojcsich, Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

Class of 2024: As part of journalism’s next generation, Emily Richardson is ready to ask the tough questions

The mass communications major already has her first post-VCU assignment: a prestigious reporting fellowship.

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Emily Richardson has always been a writer. As a kid, her command of language took the form of creative writing. Now, she’s putting her passion to work in the field of journalism.

“There was never a question about if I was going to be writing or not,” said Richardson, who will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and a minor in gender, sexuality and women’s studies.

Much of her time at Virginia Commonwealth University was spent writing for The Commonwealth Times and Capital News Service, which introduced her to the world of reporting. And that experience has led to a prestigious honor: This summer, Richardson will travel to Arizona State University as one of 29 fellows selected for Carnegie-Knight News21, a national reporting initiative headquartered at the university’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

She is the first VCU student to participate in the program, which brings in the top journalism students from around the country. It begins with a spring seminar, during which students study a topic intensely, followed by the 10-week reporting fellowship during the summer when the students will publish in-depth, multimedia projects for major media outlets. With the presidential election in November, this year’s topic is democracy in crisis.

“It’s really intense,” Richardson admitted, saying she “stumbled into” the opportunity. “But as soon as I found out what it was, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve never wanted to do something more in my life.’”

Alix Bryan-Campos, newsroom director of Capital News Service and an assistant professor in VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture in the College of Humanities and Sciences, recommended Richardson for Carnegie-Knight News21 after working with her in three courses.

“Emily’s level of interest and understanding of important current events has really developed in a short time,” Bryan-Campos said. “I have immense trust in her work. I have rarely seen a student who can juggle as many things as she does and still deliver exceptional content on deadline, without ever breaking a sweat.”

Richardson, who is from Fairfax County, began attending VCU in the fall of 2020. She had served as editor of her high school paper, but at VCU, she started as a psychology major. She decided to switch to journalism while writing and reporting for the university’s Her Campus chapter, which she realized was the most enjoyable part of her day.

Now, after months of waiting, she’s looking forward to finally embarking on the fellowship in Arizona.

“I’m so excited,” Richardson said. “I’ve never done something like this before – and I might never again. It’s such a unique opportunity that I’m very much looking forward to. I think it’ll be a really special experience.”

Bryan-Campos is eager to see how Richardson blossoms in the industry.

“She has the skill and versatility to do whatever she puts her mind to, and I hope that remains journalism because we need reporters like her,” they said.

Richardson said she is ready to take on the challenge.

With journalism undergoing so much change in recent years, it’s “a scary time to be entering the industry,” she said. “But I feel like journalism is always going to exist, whether or not it looks like those traditional newspapers. I’m very interested in the conversation about how we best connect with people and how we deliver news in the most efficient way and in the way that makes the most sense for how people are consuming media now.”