A Nose for News: Jamie Smith Hopkins ’98

When it comes to spotting trends, Jamie Smith Hopkins ’98 is – appropriately – usually one step ahead of her competitors.

At 28 years old, Hopkins’ instinctive nose for news and willingness to complete months-long data studies have already propelled her to the top of her craft as a business reporter for the Baltimore Sun. Just last month, in addition to six other awards, the former UMBC valedictorian was named top journalist under the age of 30 by the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

And to think, much of Hopkins’ training came from her time as a staff reporter and editor for UMBC’s student newspaper, the Retriever.

“It was very good training,” said Hopkins, an English major with a minor in journalism, of her time on the editorial staff. “It was an interesting lesson into the First Amendment and the responsibilities that come with it.”

A Columbia native, Hopkins grew up with a slightly different path in mind – to become an animator for Disney. While taking classes during high school at Howard Community College, she started writing a comic strip called “Jamie’s World,” which chronicled the life of a college student.

Upon arriving at UMBC, however, Hopkins was drawn in by the Retriever and another lifelong love – writing. She met her future husband, Edward Hopkins ’96, interdisciplinary studies, while on the newspaper staff. During her tenure at UMBC, Hopkins also completed internships with Patuxent Publishing and the Baltimore Sun. She credits UMBC journalism instructor Christopher Corbett with helping her make the transition from student to professional writer.

“He was so very helpful all the way through,” she said. “He’d take frenzied calls at all hours saying ‘This happened! What are we going to do?’ He was always calm and talked us out of our tree.”

After graduating with highest honors, Hopkins spent a year in Iowa at the Ames Tribune. The following year, she began her career with the Baltimore Sun, starting off as an education reporter in the Howard County bureau. Over time, she moved into business writing, covering larger trend stories for the metro section. These days, her beat is the regional economy.

Hopkins’ experiences using computer-assisted reporting – which includes tracking data over long periods of time to determine trends – came in very handy following the release of the United States Census in 2000. Most recently she spent six months tracking home sales prices by zip code for a series of articles on trends in the regional housing market.

Ultimately, the research paid off. Not only did the series educate readers about the reasons for Baltimore’s housing boom, but they also won her national recognition in the form of awards from the NAREE (best overall individual entry, best serial in any medium and top journalist under the age of 30).

According to a story in the Sun, the national real estate group said Hopkins “provided riveting examples of flight from Washington to Baltimore in search of cheap housing.”

The news came as no surprise to Hopkins’ former teacher.

“The thing about Jamie was she was extremely mature and focused from the minute she came (to UMBC),” Corbett said. “She set a very high standard at the Retriever.”

Hopkins, of course, takes the recognition all in stride. As a young journalist, she knows she still has much ahead of her. However, even with her hectic daily schedule she makes time to come back to UMBC every so often.

“Whenever (Corbett) asks me to come back to speak to the students, I always do,” she said. “Because, I really do appreciate all he did for me.”

– Jenny O’Grady
Originally published June 2006

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