Ellen London ’09 knew she was passionate about journalism when she found herself picking through a Manhattan Dumpster researching a story as a graduate student at the Columbia School of Journalism. “There I was climbing under a lid into trash with a recorder and a notepad in hand,” she said.
London was following extreme, eco-friendly individuals called “freegans,” who try to reduce waste by eating discarded food. The story took her to alleyways at night and into waste receptacles behind bakeries and supermarkets—all to capture the story and passion of people she just met. “That experience showed me if you’re willing to pursue a story and go out of your comfort zone, you can get some really incredible insights,” she said.
Her assigned beat was covering food in New York City for a course that taught the fundamentals of writing and reporting. For London it was a 10-month period of storytelling and self-discovery, using tales of New York to earn an M.S. in magazine journalism.
Despite the fast-paced nature of living in one of the world’s largest cities, the Maine native recalled her youth, in Topsham, when she read Harriet the Spy and began filling up notebooks with childhood observations.
London brought that inquisitive drive with her to Colby, where she double-majored in English and government and minored in classics, and where she was features editor of the Echo—her first foray into journalism. “I think about Tuesday nights in the Echo office: just completely nerding out about where to put a comma, coming up with crazy headlines, and dancing to our ‘booty mix’ CD.” At Colby London learned how to write, how to parse information, and the importance and meaning of the words, she said.
These skills and passions carried her to a summer internship with Down East magazine in 2009, when she won a Lovejoy Journalism Internship from the Goldfarb Center. “I came [to Down East] at a really pivotal time and was able to come in and really get my hands dirty,” she said. She flourished in the “all hands on deck” atmosphere and published several articles featuring her byline.
The Down East internship, combined with skills acquired at Columbia, prepared London for her latest role as COO of Nothing But Gold Productions, a multimedia company “focused on creating accessible financial content across various platforms.” London spearheads former CNN and CNBC anchor Nicole Lapin’s television, digital, and print projects working to reach an audience London feels has been left behind. “Youth has been incredibly marginalized [during the financial crisis],” she said. “I think we offer good, solid reporting from a young voice.” Nothing But Gold tries to fill that gap through Lapin’s television appearances, books that decode money-related topics, online resources, and digital content.
With a solid background and journalism credentials, London has risen in a profession that has grown more competitive as it has faced challenges adapting to new media. Where will London go next? “The best journalists are willing to adjust as they go—to follow the thread when they find it and go to something great,” she said. —Dash Wasserman ’12