R. John Hughes was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard and won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Indonesia and the Overseas Press Club Award for an investigation into the international narcotics traffic. He is a former president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. He has served as a member of the Pulitzer Board and as Assistant Secretary of State to George Schultz. Hughes has written four books and writes a nationally-syndicated column for The Christian Science Monitor.
Hughes was born April 28, 1930 in Neath, South Wales, the only child of Evan and Dellis May Hughes. He was raised in London and attended an ancient livery company school, the Stationers' and Newspaper Makers School.
During World War II, both of Hughes’ parents contributed to the war effort – his father was drafted into the British Army and served in North Africa for three years. His mother was conscripted into the Government Post Office during that time as well. Following the war, the entire family moved to South Africa.
Education and Career
At the age of 16 Hughes started his first job as a reporter at The Natal Mercury. Alex Hammond, his first editor, sent him to business school to learn short hand. Hughes then worked as a reporter for three years before returning to London, where he worked on Fleet Street at a news agency. He eventually was hired by the London-based The Daily Mirror. Shortly after accepting that position, The Natal Mercury contacted Hughes and asked him to come back to be the Chief of the State Capital Bureau. He accepted. He later became a stringer and a freelance writer for a number of papers in London and The Christian Science Monitor in Boston.
In 1955, at the age of 25, Hughes moved to America and began working in Boston for The Christian Science Monitor. About 18 months later he was sent back to South Africa as a correspondent for The Monitor. He filled that position for six years. Hughes was named the Nieman Fellow at Harvard University the following year. He then worked as an assistant foreign editor in Boston. His next assignment from The Monitor sent him to be a foreign correspondent in Asia for six years. It was during this time that he won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 1967 for his thorough reporting of the attempted Communist coup in Indonesia in 1965 and the purge that followed in 1965-66. During this time, he also personally consulted President Lyndon B. Johnson on the progress of the Vietnam War.
His achievements were readily recognized by The Christian Science Monitor, and he was promoted to Managing Editor, a position which he held for a year before becoming Editor from 1970-1979. For the last three of those years he was Editor and Manager (the paper's term for publisher). During his three year stint as Editor and Manager, Hughes became interested in owning his own newspaper.
His initial purchase was a weekly paper in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Hughes eventually purchased six other newspapers in the surrounding area.
During the same time period, Hughes received a call from one of President Reagan’s advisors, asking Hughes what Reagan should say in his acceptance speech, should he be elected. Hughes offered some ideas, which were remembered and used. Shortly after Reagan was elected, Hughes was asked to move to Washington D.C. to serve in Reagan’s administration from 1981-1985.
He initially served as the Associate Director of the United States Information Agency, and was later appointed as the director of The Voice of America, the government broadcasting agency. While serving in that capacity, he received a phone call from George Shultz, the Secretary of State, inviting Hughes to be the Spokesmen for the State Department and Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.
Following four years in Washington D.C., Hughes returned to Massachusetts where his newspapers were flourishing. He resumed his control of the companies, but eventually sold them when neither of his children wanted to fill his position.
Hughes was then asked by The Christian Science Monitor to be in charge of a short-wave radio international program. He did this for a few years and then bought a newspaper in Maine with a friend of his who worked at The Washington Post. The partnership was unsuccessful and short-lived, resulting in the paper being resold, which enabled Hughes to accept further administrative appointments.
In 1991 he was asked to chair President George Bush’s bipartisan Task Force on the future of US government international broadcasting. In 1992 he was appointed Chairman of a joint Presidential-Congressional Commission on Broadcasting to the People’s Republic of China. In 1993, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting appointed Hughes to its Advisory Commission on Public Broadcasting to the World.
Hughes then accepted an offer from Brigham Young University to begin the International Media Study Program. In 1995, Boutros Boutros Ghali, a former Egyptian Foreign Minister and the Secretary General of the United Nations, requested Hughes to meet with him. During the meeting, Ghali asked if Hughes would be willing to do some work for the United Nations during the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations. BYU granted Hughes a year leave of absence, and he became the Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations.
In 1996 Elder Neal A. Maxwell called Hughes with concerns about The Deseret News. Maxwell solicited his advice on improving the paper’s circulation. When Hughes returned from the United Nations he began work as a consultant for The Deseret News. Following his counsel, the paper switched its distribution to morning rather than afternoon, which improved circulation. To initiate this change, the Board of Directors asked Hughes to be the editor of the newspaper. Hughes accepted the position, and became the first non-Mormon editor of The Deseret News. He filled that position until 2007, at which point he returned to BYU as a Professor in the Communications Department. He was invited to speak at the Convocation of the College of Fine Arts and Communications in August 2008.
In 2011 Hughes received the National Council for International Visitors' Citizen Diplomat Media Award for his contributions in journalism.
In 2014, he published his autobiography, Paper Boy to Pulitzer.
In 2015, Hughes retired from BYU.
Hughes and his wife Peggy, a Brigham Young University graduate, have three children -- Mark, Wendy, and Evan -- and have six grandchildren.
- The New Face of Africa 1961
- Indonesian Upheaval 1967
- From Paper Boy to Pulitzer 2014