Introducing our 2017 US News Lab Fellows

LaToya Drake
Google News Lab
Published in
5 min readJun 8, 2017


Earlier this week, we were thrilled to welcome our 2017 US class of News Lab Fellows to Google HQ in Mountain View. This year, 8 fellows will participate in ten week fellowships at some of the top news organizations in the United States: ProPublica, Nieman Journalism Lab, Pew, Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR),, Witness, Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), and Poynter.

We began the Fellows program in 2015 to help develop the next generation of digital reporters by offering students interested in journalism and technology the opportunity to work with some of the most prestigious media organizations in the world. Since then, we’ve expanded the program to 12 countries. (You can read about our recent expansion to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland here.)

The program is a crucial part of the News Lab’s mission to work with journalists and technologists to build the future of media — and we’ve been excited to see the program continue to gain momentum. As Ben Mullin, a 2014 Fellow and current Managing Editor of, said, “It really makes a difference for us here, as I’m sure it does for many of our peer organizations around the world.”

We wanted to share a little bit about each of our incredible 2017 Fellows:

(left-right: Lindsay Abrams, Sara Rafsky, Kara Tabor, Emily Hopkins, Lylla Younes, Daniel Funke, Emily Bello-Pardo, Christine Schmidt)

MatterLindsay Abrams; New York University

Lindsay Abrams is a graduate student at Studio 20, a digital-first journalism program at New York University. She was previously a staff writer at Salon, an editorial fellow at The Atlantic, and a program coordinator for Journalism + Design at The New School. She graduated from Wesleyan University in 2012. You can follow her on Twitter @readingirl.

WitnessSara Rafsky; Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Sara Rafsky is a M.S. candidate in Comparative Media Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a researcher at MIT’s Open Documentary Lab. Before MIT, she was based in Mexico City, where she was a researcher at Amnesty International focused on central America. She previously worked at the Americas Research Associate for the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York, where she reported on press freedom in Latin America and the United States. She’s also worked with the Ford Foundation, Human Rights Watch, and the Center for Studies on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information (CELE). In 2008, she received a Fulbright Grant to research photojournalism and the armed conflict in Colombia.

Sara has also written about culture and politics as a freelance journalist in New York, South America, and Southeast Asia, interned at the Associated Press in Bogotá, Colombia, and was the Editorial Assistant for ARTnews magazine in New York. She has a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and is from Brooklyn, New York.

Center for Investigative ReportingKara Tabor; University of Missouri — Columbia

Kara is a M.S. candidate in data reporting at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. She is an audio reporter and producer who works for Investigative Reporters and Editors and NPR station KBIA. Kara’s master’s project involves examining how local news organizations can inspire national media agendas through data-driven watchdog reporting. She’s interested in reporting on issues related drugs, health, and food and agriculture.

Investigative Reporters & EditorsEmily Hopkins; Northeastern University

Emily Hopkins is a Boston-based journalist currently earning a M.S. degree in Northeastern University’s Media Innovation program. Her focus has been on the intersection of design, data, and investigative storytelling. She spent last summer as an intern at The Marshall Project, and is a founding member of the forthcoming Boston-centric criminal justice news site, The Docket. Before grad school, she was the managing editor of a hyperlocal magazine that serves Cambridge and Somerville, Mass. When she’s not working, she’s probably cooking.

ProPublicaLylla Younes; Cornell University

Lylla is an computer scientist and data journalist at Cornell University. She is primarily interested in information retrieval systems and interactive data visualization. Lylla was previously an intern at Visualizing Impact, and organization with which she continues to collaborate. In addition to working on freelance data story projects, she enjoys writing poetry and political commentary pertaining to the Middle East.

PoynterDaniel Funke; The University of Georgia

Daniel Funke is a senior University of Georgia student majoring in journalism and international affairs with a minor in Spanish and a certificate in new media. Funke has worked with the Los Angeles Times as a web intern since June 2016, where he helps design and manage the An award-winning journalist, Funke has previously worked for USA TODAY’s college section as a correspondent and digital producer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as a breaking news intern. At UGA, he served as managing editor of Ampersand Magazine and editor-in-chief of The Red & Black student newspaper, where he created the publication’s first digital team.

As an Innovation Fellow in the Cox Institute for Journalism Management, Innovation and Leadership, Funke created and produces The Lead, a podcast that interviews top journalists and explores how to succeed in the media industry. An honors student, his past media research has focused on how website design affects reader cognition and the constitutionality of free speech zones on college campuses.

Pew Research Journalism ProjectEmily Bello-Pardo; American University

Emily D. Bello-Pardo is a political scientist, human rights activist, and journalist. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in Political Science at American University, specializing in American and Comparative Politics. Her research interests are political communication, public opinion, and political behavior. More specifically, her work examines the impact of policy changes and online communication on public opinion in the United States and Latin America. Bello-Pardo obtained a MA in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from Florida International University (FIU), where she held a Research Fellowship at the Latin American Marijuana Research Initiative. Previously, she received dual BAs in Political Science and International Relations from FIU, where she was inducted Phi Beta Kappa, graduated with academic honors, and was President of the Debate Team. Born in Caracas, she served as the US National Coordinator of VotoJoven, a Venezuelan student organization that promotes voting and political rights in that country. As a researcher, she has coauthored three book chapters and presented papers in several national conferences throughout the United States. Her journalism work has been printed in national news outlets in Venezuela and Colombia and published in digital outlets in the US.

Nieman Journalism LabChristine Schmidt; University of Chicago

Christine’s experience with journalism has been like a game of Twister — one foot in print, one in social media, and most recently one hand reaching for broadcast television. A Chicago native, she grew up reading the comics of Chicago’s main newspapers and reported for the student newspaper at the University of Chicago while studying public policy. After internships at the Dallas Morning News, KNBC in Los Angeles, and Snapchat, Christine is wrapping up her college career by writing her thesis about the prospects of a nationwide fellowship for journalists in the style of Teach for America. You can find Christine driving across the country between her internships, rowing in the Chicago River with the crew team, and winning at Twister.

A huge congratulations to our News Lab Fellows! We’ll be sure to check in on the amazing work they’ll be doing throughout the summer.



LaToya Drake
Google News Lab

I'm snuggly soft. News Lab @Google. @googlenewslab