Room S109

Department of Media and Communications

London School of Economics and Political Science

Houghton Street



Tel: +44 (0) 20 7107 5026

Twitter:  @MediaLSE|





Dr Ella McPherson


I am an LSE Fellow in Media and Communications.  Previously, I was a Junior Research Fellow in Sociology at the University of Cambridge's Wolfson College, where I also served as Director of Studies in Politics, Psychology and Sociology.  I earned my PhD, funded by a Gates Cambridge Scholarship, from Cambridge's Department of Sociology in 2010.  During my PhD, I was a Research Fellow at the Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico's Center of Inter-American Studies and Programs and an Anglo-Californian Exchange Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley.

I have an MPhil in Latin American Studies from Cambridge and a BA from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Research interests

My research centres on how major changes in society relate to mechanisms for holding power to account.  My doctoral dissertation was concerned in particular with how accountability mechanisms interact with democratization.  One of the strongest of such mechanisms is the discourse of human rights, predominantly exercised via collaboration between civil society, in the form of human rights NGOs, and the media.  To examine this, I conducted a media ethnography of human rights coverage at newspapers in Mexico, ultimately arguing that the accountability potential of human rights reporting reflects a contest for public credibility between the state, the media, and civil society.

My current research assesses the impact of digital information and communication technologies on mechanisms for holding power to account.  It does this by exploring the phenomenon of human rights NGO journalism, which I first witnessed during my fieldwork in Mexico.  Frustrated with the bottleneck to governmental accountability concretized in the mainstream media, Mexican human rights NGOs were experimenting with going 'direct-to-citizen' by deploying new information communication technologies.  In so doing, they were part of the burgeoning trend of NGO journalism facilitated by digital ICTs' vast widening of access to publishing and to publics and heralded as a possible solution to the contemporary crisis of traditional investigative journalism in the mainstream media.

The goals of this research are threefold: to understand the nature of NGO journalism, to identify its impact on contests for credibility between stakeholders, and to evaluate its effects on accountability.  At this stage, I am looking in particular at methods human rights NGOs employ to evaluate the credibility of information received via anonymous social media sources.  This research, which aims to identify best practices to share with academic researchers, is supported by the Social Media Knowledge Exchange| project.


I am lecturing and leading seminars for Critical Approaches to Media, Communication and Development (MC421) and leading seminars for Theories and Concepts in Media and Communications (MC408/MC418).  I also supervise dissertations (MC499).  I am an Associate of the Higher Education Academy and lecture on 'Politics and the Media' for Cambridge's undergraduate sociology paper on 'Media, Culture and Society.'  My previous teaching experience includes teaching the BA module on 'Journalism and Politics' for Birkbeck's Department of Media and Cultural Studies and lecturing on 'Mexican Politics and Society' for Cambridge's undergraduate interdisciplinary paper on 'Society, Politics and Culture in Latin America.'