Ellen Hume is an Annenberg Fellow in Civic Media at the Center for Media and Communication Studies at Central European University in Budapest. She is turning down new projects in order to work on a book about journalism and politics. Until she moved to Europe in June, 2009 she was research director of the Center for Future Civic Media at MIT, which was funded by the Knight Foundation. She was also the founding editor and publisher of the New England Ethnic Newswire (2007-2009), and the founding director of the Center on Media and Society, UMass Boston (2004).
While living in Prague, Czech Republic, from 1998-2000, she began the research reflected in "Caught in the Middle: Central and Eastern European Journalism at a Crossroads" published in 2011 by the Center for International Media Assistance. Her 2004 report for the Knight Foundation, "Media Missionaries" was the first comprehensive study of U.S. efforts to train foreign journalists. Hume also was a Senior Research Fellow at UMass Boston (2003-2008), creating and teaching, “News Media and Political Power,” “Local and Ethnic News Media,” “Media, History and Identity,” and other courses.
Before she turned to teaching, Hume was a full-time reporter and analyst for American newspapers, magazines and television. She worked as a White House and political correspondent for The Wall Street Journal from 1983 to 1988, Washington-based national reporter with the Los Angeles Times from 1977 to 1983, and did prior stints at KTMS Radio, The Detroit Free Press, Santa Barbara News Press, The Ypsilanti Press, Somerville Journal and other media outlets.
In 1988, Hume quit her high-profile job as White House correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, and a regular commentator at PBS's "Washington Week in Review," because she was critical of journalism's ongoing role in U.S. politics. She returned to her alma mater, Harvard, where 1988-93 she explored new journalism approaches as executive director of Harvard's new Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. In addition to administering the Center for director Marvin Kalb, she designed and directed research and conferences, raised money, and taught seminars at the Kennedy School of Government. She also became part of an emerging reform movement seeking more effective citizen engagement with journalism, winning an award from Penn State University for her report, Campaign Lessons for 1992.
Relocating back to Washington in 1993 for family reasons, Hume joined Northwestern University's Annenberg Washington Program, working with Director Newton Minow, teaching Medill journalism students during their Washington semester, and analyzing how new media technologies were changing journalism and politics, in her prizewinning 1995 study, Tabloids, Talk Radio and the Future of News. She also became a trainer in US newsrooms for the Committee of Concerned Journalists.
In 1996 she had an opportunity to apply these ideas to public television, as executive director of PBS's Democracy Project. For two years she developed, funded and oversaw special PBS news programs that encouraged citizen involvement in public affairs. For example, to augment PBS's 1996 and 1998 election coverage, she created PBS Debate Night, the first nationally televised live Congressional leadership debate, coupled with 70 live local candidate debates the same night, on PBS stations across the country. She also created "Follow the Money", PBS's weekly television and Web series on the role of money in American politics. At PBS, she promoted what she called "resource journalism," an early multimedia approach to connect and engage the public in the news.
As a television commentator, Hume appeared as a weekly media analyst on CNN's Reliable Sources (1993-1997) and as a frequent panelist on PBS's Washington Week in Review (1979-1988). She co-anchored PBS's live coverage of the congressional hearings on Waco in 1995, and from 1990 to 1992 she moderated "The Editors" talk show on Canadian public television. The recipient of numerous honors and fellowships, Hume was a 1981 fellow at Harvard's Institute of Politics. She has conducted journalism and democracy workshops throughout the United States, and in such countries as the Czech Republic, Bosnia, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Poland, Russia, and Seychelles. Hume holds honorary doctorates from Kenyon College and Daniel Webster College.
While all this is past and forgotten, there actually is one outcome that she still holds dear: getting the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority to pay for and install a traffic light on the corner of Tremont and Park streets, Newton, MA in 2002, after she enlisted her friends and neighbors in a campaign that showed democracy can sometimes work.