Photo of Gwen Thompkins
Gwen Thompkins (NC ’87)
Gwen Thompkins is a prolific New Orleans-born journalist and writer known for her coverage of the standard-bearers of the Louisiana music scene and the art of making music.
Thompkins graduated from Newcomb in 1987, with a dual degree in history and Soviet studies. After graduation, Thompkins worked as a reporter and editor at The Times-Picayune. From 1996 to 2006, she was senior editor of National Public Radio (NPR)’s Weekend Edition with Scott Simon, and later NPR’s East Africa bureau chief, based in Nairobi, Kenya. In this role, Thompkins reported on the toppling of the Islamic Courts Union government in Somalia, ethnic violence in Kenya, insecurity in Darfur and Sudan’s first nationwide elections in a generation. She has also written a series on the Nile River, traveling from the shores of Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean Sea. Heading south, she has reported stories from South Africa and Antarctica. Following a fellowship at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, she returned to New Orleans full-time.
Since 2012, Thompkins has been the executive producer and host of the public radio program Music Inside Out, which showcases the unusually varied musical landscape of Louisiana. Her interviews and stories have been featured in The New Yorker, The Oxford American, NPR Music, WXPN’s World Café, The Strangers Guide, Tulanian Magazine, and The Massachusetts Review.
Today, Thompkins is writing a book based on the interviews she has conducted for Music Inside Out. Past interviewees include Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Galactic, and Big Freedia.