During a career spanning more than 30 years, Sean Hillen has been reporter, editor, publisher, public speaker and author, as well as media trainer and creative writing coach with Ireland Writing Retreat and FIOS.
Born in Belfast, Ireland, he worked in print media with Belfast Telegraph newspapers and The Irish Times, before emigrating to the United States to work at the United Nations Media Center in New York. From there he moved to the Midwest with Scripps Howard Broadcasting, now an NBC-affiliate, and then medical correspondent for The Kansas City Times.
Over the years, Sean’s writing has appeared in many other publications including Time magazine and The Wall Street Journal, as well as specialized medical publications such as American Medical News, the national newspaper of the American Medical Association, and American Nurse, national magazine of the American Nurses Association, and Nursing Times in England.
After winning a number of regional and national journalism awards, Sean left the US for post-Communist Eastern Europe immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 as a volunteer with the Human Rights League to establish the first journalism schools in Romania. This led to him working with international agencies such as the United Nations Development Fund, the Soros Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). He later became foreign correspondent for The Times and then The Daily Telegraph, London, before establishing his own national publishing and events company based in Bucharest for 15 years with an average annual turnover of 1.2 million euro and employing more than 30 full-time staff.
Reflecting his achievements in academics – including two postgraduate degrees in economics and journalism – Sean was elected chairperson of the US Fulbright Commission in Romania, a position he held for four years. He was also honored by the President of Romania for launching the nation’s first-ever Corporate Citizen, Civic Journalism and Community Service Awards.
Sean is a published author – including non-fiction books on journalism and media training and a light-hearted, intra-country travelogue entitled ‘Digging for Dracula.’ His travel writings can also be found at JustLuxe.com, Examiner.com and Worlditineraries.co
Sean shares his life mostly with his Transylvanian-born wife, Columbia, and two lively sheepdogs, Siog and Lugh.
Sean’s latest book is a contemporary novel entitled ‘Pretty Ugly.’ Published this year, it deals with a growing health concern in the US today – the use of nano-particles in everyday cosmetics, their potential danger as they migrate within the human body and the almost complete lack of government regulation governing their ever-increasing use. ‘Pretty Ugly’ transforms a modern-day medical controversy into fiction form by focusing on the challenges facing an unlikely trio – a supermodel, a skin specialist and a struggling newspaper reporter – as they lift the veil of secrecy on a powerful cosmetics company intent on concealing the health hazards from toxic ingredients in its products. Ironically, in this case, the danger is concealed inside a simple concealer – nano-particles so small they invade nerve and blood cells causing untold damage to users.
Most Memorable Moments
Asked what the most memorable moments in his life so far have been , Sean said, “Not having given birth or risen from the dead, I’d say my most memorable moments – aside from my wedding day – are related to the profession I have followed for several decades – journalism.”
Romania – “I came within a whisker of being tossed out of the fifth floor window of a downtown Romanian hospital while investigating some less than ethical researchers who had bribed local officials, tethered infant orphans suffering from AIDS to their cots and injected them with an experimental drug to fast-track access to the lucrative drug market for that particular condition. My exclusive investigative articles ran in several major daily newspapers throughout Europe forcing the World Health Organization to step in. Under pressure, the Romanian Government banned the experiments and ejected the people behind them.”
United States – “Being from west Belfast, one of the neighborhoods worst hit by violence during what is known as the Northern Irish troubles, I established the ‘Celtic Children for Peace’ after emigrating to the US. The project, still ongoing 20 years later, brings young Catholic and Protestant children from both sides of the religious divide together to encourage mutual understanding and long-term peace.”
United States – “As a medical correspondent for The Kansas City Times, I embarked on a marathon, two-year series of news and feature articles on the tragic plight of Jeff, a hockey-loving teenager with leukemia and his tenacious parents who struggled to establish a national bone marrow computer registry. Their efforts finally succeeded when appropriate legislation was passed on Capitol Hill, Washington, tragically too late for Jeff who died at the tender age of 16 as they frantically searched for a donor match through a moribund, cumbersome system.”
Romania – “Being presented with the prestigious Medal of Honor for Public Services by His Excellency President of Romania for establishing the nation’s first civic awards program and for journalistic efforts in revealing corruption.“