Paula Ellis, a former foundation executive, senior media executive and journalist, has long been a leader in journalism innovation, transformative change, and employee and community engagement.
Today, Ellis focuses on civic entrepreneurship with a twin emphasis on reimagining journalism to better serve democracy and on fostering more inclusive communities and workplaces.
She has decades- long experience with the for-profit and non-profit sectors.
As vice president for strategic initiatives at Knight Foundation, Ellis shaped the “informed and engaged” strategy; shifted the evaluation focus and launched a series of initiatives that would become signature efforts. She managed more than $700 million in grants when she retired after seven years in 2013.
Prior to joining the foundation, Ellis was an officer of Knight Ridder Inc., then one of the nation’s largest, most-respected news organizations. Ellis began her career as a journalist at several metropolitan newspapers. In 1980, she joined Knight Ridder Inc. where she worked for 26 years rising through the ranks as an editor, publisher and vice president/operations of the Fortune 500 firm she helped sell in 2006. A member of the management committee that set overall company policy and strategy, Ellis was responsible for 20 city group newspaper and internet operations, which comprised about 34 percent of EBIDA.
Known for innovation and collaboration, Ellis often was tapped to lead key strategic efforts in for-profit and non-profit enterprises. She is a respected change maker who employs strategic and tactical insights to attack complex, systemic challenges. A respected national journalist and popular public speaker, she also delivered operational excellence. The Sun News in Myrtle Beach was Knight-Ridder’s top performing news organization for five of the seven years she led it.
Throughout her career as a news, corporate and civic leader, Ellis developed deep experience in national and community issues. From Washington, D.C., Ellis led Knight Ridder’s coverage of the end of the Cold War, the 1988 presidential elections and the Iran Contra Investigation. Later, as a top executive at the State in Columbia, S.C. and as a publisher, Ellis worked with community groups and institutions to foster community vitality. This work shaped ideas that would evolve into the groundbreaking Soul of the Community research at Knight Foundation
As an innovator in the journalism field, Ellis has a long affiliation with the Poynter Institute, was at the forefront of the coaching writers’ movement, newsroom organizational redesign and the public journalism movement of the ‘90s. A Harvard Business School case study in the mid- ‘90s explored her early work in transitioning The State newspaper to digital.
Ellis is a senior associate with the Kettering Foundation; a trustee of the Poynter Institute, a director of the National Conference on Citizenship; and board member of Images and Voices of Hope (IVOH), The Engagement Lab at Emerson College and the Philip Merrill College of Journalism (University of Maryland) board of visitors.
She is president of Paula Ellis and Associates, a consulting firm headquartered in Charleston, S.C.