Paula Ellis
About Me

Paula Ellis is a national leader in journalism innovation, transformative change and employee and community engagement. A former foundation executive, senior media executive and journalist, Paula’s work focuses on civic entrepreneurship with a twin emphasis on reimagining journalism to better serve democracy and fostering more inclusive communities and work places.

In her first book, News for US, Paula introduces to the journalism field a new way of thinking and operating in a connected world, offering a practical guide for news executives to bring citizens together to foster collaboration around solving some of society’s most challenging problems. 

In her second book, Reinventing Journalism to Strengthen Democracy, Paula and co-editor Paloma Dallas offer a companion guide—a collection of essays by innovative journalists working to develop far more inclusive narrative of American identity, to enable more citizens to see themselves as essential to the success of the democratic experiment.

Paula began her career as a journalist at several metropolitan newspapers, and in 1980, joined Knight Ridder Inc., where she rose through the ranks as an editor, publisher and vice president/operations of the Fortune 500 firm she helped to sell in 2006. She remains a sought-after consultant, an in-demand public speaker and respected journalist and change maker, who employs strategic and tactical insights to attack complex, systemic challenges at for-profit and non-profit enterprises.

A former Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at the Knight Foundation, Paula is a director of the National Conference on Citizenship, a trustee of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies and a senior advisor to the Kettering Foundation. She also is president of Paula Ellis Strategies, a consulting firm headquartered in Charleston, S.C.

Available Now!

In the midst of the disruptions and distrust that have plagued traditional media in recent years, and a degree of polarization rarely seen in American history, a new style of journalism is emerging. Dozens of news organizations, from corporate powerhouses to home-office startups, are reviving a classic role of American journalism: inspiring and enabling Americans to do the difficult, authentic and ultimately rewarding work of citizenship in a democratic society.

Both books are guides to enrich the skillset of the 21st century journalism with the mindset of civic engagement, expanded coverage and inclusion. Readers will meet leading innovators and experimenters in these new forms who will describe their challenges and offer their guidance.

The potential is here to revitalize American journalism—and revitalize American democracy in the process.

"Journalism is the connective tissue between citizens and democracy, and nobody understands that better than Paula Ellis. As an accomplished editor and publisher, Paula championed quality news and information as essential to relevance and revenue in the news marketplace. Long before the tensions that stress our democracy today, Paula advocated a break from old conventions -- a professional realignment that would enable journalism to help citizens come together, rather than default to differences. In News for US, Paula's passion and unabashedly high standards are a call to action. For those of us who care about journalism and democracy, we must follow her lead."

Neil Brown, President

The Poynter Institute for Media Studies

Available Now!

In the midst of the disruptions and distrust that have plagued traditional media in recent years, and a degree of polarization rarely seen in American history, a new style of journalism is emerging. Dozens of news organizations, from corporate powerhouses to home-office startups, are reviving a classic role of American journalism: inspiring and enabling Americans to do the difficult, authentic and ultimately rewarding work of citizenship in a democratic society.

This book is a first-ever guide to this new approach—one that enriches the skill set of the 21st-century journalism with the mindset of civic engagement. Readers will meet leading innovators and experimenters in these new forms who will describe their challenges and offer their guidance.

The potential is here to revitalize American journalism—and revitalize American democracy in the process.

"Journalism is the connective tissue between citizens and democracy, and nobody understands that better than Paula Ellis. As an accomplished editor and publisher, Paula championed quality news and information as essential to relevance and revenue in the news marketplace. Long before the tensions that stress our democracy today, Paula advocated a break from old conventions -- a professional realignment that would enable journalism to help citizens come together, rather than default to differences. In News for US, Paula's passion and unabashedly high standards are a call to action. For those of us who care about journalism and democracy, we must follow her lead."

Neil Brown, President

The Poynter Institute for Media Studies

Projects

For the past two decades, Paula has been championing and leading efforts to realign journalism to enable it to help all citizens come together rather than default to their differences. 

A former VP of Strategic Initiatives at the Knight Foundation, Paula is a director of the National Conference on Citizenship, a trustee of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies and a senior advisor to the Kettering Foundation. She also is president of Paula Ellis Strategies, a consulting firm headquartered in Charleston, S.C.

For the past two decades, Paula has been a popular speaker on the vital intersection of citizenship and journalism, and the role of the press in a changing world—and how, increasingly, our nation’s push for equality demands the active participation of ordinary Americans as never before in our public discourse. To book Paula as a speaker on the changing role of journalism in a democracy,  please contact All American Speakers Bureau or Paula directly.

For nearly two decades, Paula’s work as a senior news media executive, journalist and foundation executive inspired her thought leadership on the topic of civic engagement, and her work with community groups and institutions to foster community vitality. This work shaped ideas that would evolve into the ground-breaking  Soul of the Community initiative she led at the Knight Foundation during her tenure there as Vice President for Strategic Initiatives. Today, Paula continues her focus on civic engagement, with a twin emphasis on reimagining journalism to better serve democracy, and on fostering more inclusive communities and work places through her work as President of Paula Ellis Strategies, LLC, a consulting firm headquartered in Charleston, S.C.

Two Women and a Republic, a blog Paula co-created with poet Wendy Willis before the pandemic, shared their early correspondence about their everyday efforts to expand civic engagement. Today, given rising challenges to democracy across society, Paula will be expanding and diversifying the conversation with a variety of new partners under a new name and podcast format. Watch this space for details. 

Impact

Ben Hecht

Principal and Founder
Reclaiming the Dream

“Paula’s guidance shaped what has become our award-winning knowledge strategy. Her simple words clarified what we needed to do and how we needed to do it:  ‘A knowledge strategy is turning information into knowledge and knowledge into influence,’ Paula said. ‘Decide who you want to influence and why and go from there.’ We’ve never deviated from that path.”

Jennifer Brandel

CEO
Hearken

“Paula is a rare breed. She’s able to bridge old and new paradigms and bring skeptics along with her. I count myself lucky to be part of Paula’s sphere of rabble-rousers who are charting a new future.”

David Mathews

President Emeritus
Kettering Foundation

“In the soul-searching that is going on about what is happening to our democracy, there is no obvious, agreed upon, way forward. But there are a few who recognize that their profession and their institution need to play fundamentally different roles in democracy.
They are explorers. Paula Ellis and her colleagues are leading one of the most promising expeditions.”

Martin G. Reynolds

Co-Executive Director
Maynard Institute for Journalism Education

“Paula’s work has inspired members of my community in Oakland, CA to rethink their relationship to journalism and the stories told about them. Paula is an excellent leader working at the nexus of innovation, storytelling and the protection of a most precious gift, our democracy.”

Yvette B. Walker

VP + Editorial Page Editor
Kansas City Star

“From her work in community journalism to Foundation work and consulting, Paula understands the evolution of news and information – and how to communicate to a changing population. Her work on the board of the National Conference on Citizenship and her writing at Two Women and a Republic shows her experience as a leader in transformative change.”

Bill Drayton

Founder and CEO, Ashoka
 

“Paula’s deeply ingrained modesty is a reflection of an extraordinary and freeing confidence. She dreams, she imagines and designs and engineers — and others accompany her comfortably. That’s how she has brought one innovation after another, enriching and helping great journalism grow and flourish in a time of accelerating change and challenge.”

Stephanie Davis

Vice President
Google Customer Solutions

“I had the privilege of working with Paula when she was an officer at Knight Ridder. Her strong leadership and her passion for and belief in the positive impact that good journalism could have led her to innovate in the newsroom early on. Her strong intuition gave her an early understanding of the transformational changes that the digital age would bring.”

Garrett M. Graff

Author and Journalist

“Paula has dedicated her distinguished career to thinking deeply about the role of the press in an open democracy and how our nation’s ongoing push for equality demands the active participation of ordinary Americans. I’ve long admired Paula’s dedication to these complex issues and trusted her wise counsel on how to navigate the most challenging issues our country faces as we strive for a more just society.”  

Insights

NEWS, DISRUPTED

NEWS, DISRUPTED

Today more and more people understand that the First Amendment wasn’t just written for the press. It was...

March 4, 2021
SOUL OF THE COMMUNITY

SOUL OF THE COMMUNITY

Puzzled by what causes people to care enough about the people and place where they live to become...

April 15, 2021
REIMAGINING LOCAL NEWS

REIMAGINING LOCAL NEWS

Perhaps the best way to rescue our decaying democracy is from the bottom up, community by community. After...

May 6, 2021

Media

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