John Seigenthaler

John Seigenthaler founded the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center in 1991 with the mission of creating national discussion, dialogue and debate about First Amendment rights and values.

A former president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Seigenthaler served for 43 years as an award-winning journalist for The Tennessean, Nashville's morning newspaper. At his retirement he was editor, publisher and CEO. He retains the title chairman emeritus. In 1982, Seigenthaler became founding editorial director of USA Today and served in that position for a decade, retiring from both the Nashville and national newspapers in 1991. A former Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, he served for two decades as a member of the Nieman advisory board.

Seigenthaler left journalism briefly in the early 1960s to serve in the U.S. Justice Department as administrative assistant to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. His work in the field of civil rights led to his service as chief negotiator with the governor of Alabama during the Freedom Rides. During that crisis, while attempting to aid Freedom Riders in Montgomery, Ala., he was attacked by a mob of Klansmen and hospitalized.

Seigenthaler hosts a weekly book-review program, "A Word On Words." A senior advisory trustee of the Freedom Forum, he is chair of the Robert F. Kennedy Book Awards for the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights and chairman emeritus of the annual Profile in Courage Award selection committee of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Seigenthaler is a member of the Constitution Project on Liberty and Security, created after the Sept. 11 tragedies, and served on the 18-member National Commission on Federal Election Reform organized in 2001 by former Presidents Carter and Ford. He is a member of the Country Music Foundation Inc. board of officers and trustees, and of the board of directors of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

In 2002, the trustees of Vanderbilt University renamed the on-campus building at 18th Avenue South and Edgehill Avenue, which had been constructed by the Freedom Forum and donated to the university, as the "John Seigenthaler Center." The Freedom Forum foundation is the creator and principal funder of the Newseum, in Washington, D.C., the Newseum Institute and its First Amendment Center.

The Seigenthaler Center houses offices of the Freedom Forum, the First Amendment Center and the Newseum Institute. The center encompasses 57,000 square feet and includes a three-story expansion that was funded by the Freedom Forum and donated to Vanderbilt.

A chair in First Amendment Studies was endowed for $1.5 million in Seigenthaler’s name at Middle Tennessee State University. Scholarship projects are endowed at both Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee State in Seigenthaler’s name.

Seigenthaler is the author of a biography, James K. Polk, published by Times Books and released in January 2004.

A strong advocate of First Amendment rights of free expression, he also has been a nationally recognized critic of willfully false and misleading online vandalism. His controversy with Wikipedia for posting anonymous, libelous statements led to that website's revising its policies.

Video: John Seigenthaler’s “Wikipedia, WikiLeaks and Wiccans: Historical Accuracy Online” presentation at Vanderbilt University, October 2011.

Video: John Seigenthaler speaks at Vanderbilt University about civil rights protests, March 2012.

Posts by John Seigenthaler:

From young reader to engaged citizen

Today is Constitution Day — a time to reflect on one of history’s most amazing documents.
It was 220 years ago today — on Sept. 17, 1787 — that 39 members of the Constitutional Convention signed the charter for what was to become the greatest form of self-government ever conceived.
The document called for three separate branches [...]

Revived ‘Fairness Doctrine’ would be anything but fair

Throughout history our politicians have demonstrated a penchant for passing
laws and promoting policies with seductive, but deviously misleading,

A false Wikipedia ‘biography’

Editor’s note: This commentary appeared in USA TODAY on Nov. 30.

“John Seigenthaler Sr. was the assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy in the early 1960′s. For a brief time, he was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby. Nothing was ever proven.”
— Wikipedia
This is a [...]

Seigenthaler speech at 2003 MTSU commencement

Text of speech given at May 2003 commencement exercises at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro.

Press Commentary | | October 22, 1999

Only 2 bucks for Food Lion, but journalists still feel the chill

Responsible journalists believe it is important to tell readers of newspapers and viewers of television the truth in reporting news about important public policy issues.
That seems so obvious it hardly is worth writing a column about. But because ABC-TV News used deception in reporting that Food Lion, the supermarket chain, sold tainted chicken, cheese, beef [...]