Ellen Smith (IPJ 87), owner and managing editor of Mine Safety and Health News, never anticipated being a journalist.
“I thought I wanted to be a grant writer and work for state or local government,” said Smith who attended the Institute on Political Journalism during the summer of 1987. “I never intended to specialize in mine safety law. There is a saying, ‘when you’re on the road to nowhere, any road will do.’ IPJ helped me find a career path that forever changed my life.”
Smith graduated from Rutgers University-Livingston College after going to school part-time at Middlesex County Community College in N.J. and was an older student at TFAS. Smith was 27 and even had to work at a restaurant in D.C. while attending IPJ so that she could support herself through the program.
IPJ was one of the most challenging things I had ever done in my life at that point and perhaps the most satisfying academically,” said Smith.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the prominent journalists who came to speak with us in the evening lectures, and they gave us great insight into the world of successful working journalists. My internship was a Capitol Hill experience that every student should have.”
Smith says that IPJ completely changed her career mindset. “After that summer, I knew I wanted to do something in Washington that could make a difference.”
She decided to stay in D.C. to further pursue this desire to “make a difference,” as she was hired full time at a congressional office after her internship there during IPJ.
Following her time on the Hill, Smith joined Pasha Publications; a Washington, D.C. newsletter company where she began to settle into her career as a journalist.
It was at Pasha where she first wrote about coal and synthetic fuels technology. She quickly climbed the ladder and was promoted to assistant editor for the energy report where she covered energy policy and eventually became editor of mine regulation.
After six years at Pasha, Smith began her own publication where she decided to focus solely on federal mine safety law.
Her publication, Mine Safetyand Health News, is the only independent, credentialed reporting service covering the U.S. mining industry. Smith now writes and reports on alternative fuels, energy policies and the federal mine safety and health review commission. She has 24 journalism awards to show for her prowess throughout her 21-year reporting career.
These awards include being a three-time winner of the Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi Award, numerous Newsletter Foundation reporting awards, a National Press Club Award, APEX awards, and awards from the D.C. and National Federation of Presswomen.
Smith has stayed involved with TFAS through the years, and while at Pasha she hosted an IPJ intern every summer.
“I have stayed in touch with almost every intern that I had and it has been most satisfying to see eager journalists go down this career path,” she said.
Smith now resides in Mendon, N.Y. on a farm with her husband, Tim Pryor and their son William, age 12. She enjoys horseback riding and trail-trial competitions as well as gardening. She volunteers at her son’s school gardening and fundraising for campus gardens and also volunteers for a therapeutic horseback riding program for disabled children and adults.