Neenah Ellis

General Manager, WYSO

Neenah Ellis has been the general manager of public radio station WYSO 91.3FM in Yellow Springs, Ohio, since 2009. Prior to that, she worked in Washington, D.C., for 30 years as a public radio producer.

Write her nominators: “She is an inspiration to everyone in her field, including hundreds of female journalists whom she has either personally mentored or inspired through her example. She honors and shares the stories of everyday people whose voices are often excluded from mainstream media. And after more than 40 years in the field, Neenah still comes to work every day with unflagging energy and enthusiasm.”

Ellis began her career at National Public Radio, where she was a producer and writer for the daily news program “All Things Considered.” Her work for NPR won the Alfred I. duPont/Columbia University Award and three George Foster Peabody Awards, broadcasting’s highest honor. At a time when media was dominated by white males, NPR was, from the beginning, different – there were, and still are, many strong women in leadership roles working for NPR. Neenah was mentored by these women, including radio legends like Susan Stamberg.

Her diverse portfolio includes traveling to Sarajevo in 1994 to produce war documentaries and spending 15 years interviewing Holocaust survivors for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s oral history collection. In 2002, she published If I Live to be 100: Lessons from the Centenarians, based on her NPR series about people who are 100 years old. The book was published in five languages, became a New York Times best-seller, and has sold more than 100,000 copies.

Ellis put WYSO on a path to stability and increasing prominence by introducing an innovative approach to journalism: a training program in 2011 called “Community Voices,” a six-month course that teaches the art of radio storytelling. At its core, “Community Voices” is about inspiring and empowering local citizens to tell their own stories.

She has been honored with The University Station Alliance Madison Hodges Innovation Award for Public Media Advancement (an Edward R. Murrow Award) and has served a long tenure on the Board of the Association of Independents in Radio (including a stint as president), as well as time on the Public Radio in Mid America and Film Dayton boards.