Ellen Hume is a Boston-based journalist, teacher and civil society activist who works on the front lines of democracy around the world. Before moving to Budapest (2009-2016) where she mentored journalists and founded a project on Roma integration, she was research director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT (2008-9), and creator of the New England Ethnic Newswire (2007-2009).
Hume’s analysis of why independent journalism hasn’t done well in post-Communist countries “Caught in the Middle: Central and Eastern European Journalism at a Crossroads” was published in 2011 by the Center for International Media Assistance. Her earlier report “Media Missionaries” was the first comprehensive study of U.S. efforts to train foreign journalists, published in 2004 by the Knight Foundation. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on the advisory aboard of the Center for International Media Assistance, the Center for Media, Data and Society at Central European University, and DIREKT36, a Hungarian investigative reporting group. An international journalism trainer since 1993, Hume also served on the board of Internews.
Before becoming a teacher, 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. She is currently writing a book about media and politics.
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 supervised and funded research, managed staff, and taught seminars, as executive director of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. In addition to administering the Shorenstein Center for director Marvin Kalb, Hume became part of an emerging reform movement seeking more effective citizen engagement with journalism and politics. Her project on political campaign coverage, Campaign Lessons for 1992 won an award from Penn State University.
Moving back to Washington, D.C. 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.
Interested in how technology might empower better journalism, Hume became in 1996 the first executive director of the PBS Democracy Project, where she developed, funded and oversaw special PBS programming that encouraged citizen involvement in public affairs.
For example, to augment PBS’s 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 developed “Follow the Money”, PBS’s innovative weekly television series about the role of money in American politics.
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 in 1995 of the congressional hearings into the Branch Dividian cult’s fatal showdown with law enforcement at Waco, Texas. From 1990 to 1992 she moderated “The Editors” talk show on Canadian public television.
After living for family reasons in Prague, Czech Republic for two years, Hume became in 2003 a Senior Research Fellow at UMass Boston (2003-2008), founding the Center for Media and Society and teaching, “News Media and Political Power,” and other courses. She established the David Nyhan Journalism prize and the Empower Disabled Fund at UMB. Partnering with Harvard’s Nieman Foundation and the Boston Globe, she co-created Media Nation, a student newspaper about the news media at the Democratic Presidential Convention in Boston in 2004.
The recipient of numerous honors throughout her career, Hume was a fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics, and a traveling Woodrow Wilson fellow, lecturing on U.S. college campuses. She has moderated conferences and conducted journalism and democracy workshops throughout the United States, and in such countries as the Czech Republic, Bosnia, Ethiopia, Hungary, Mauritius, Poland, Russia, and Seychelles. Hume holds an undergraduate American history and literature degree from Radcliffe College (Harvard) and honorary doctorates from Kenyon College and Daniel Webster College.