Ken Paulson

Ken Paulson is president of the First Amendment Center and dean of the College of Mass Communication at Middle Tennessee State University. ( He is also the former editor-in-chief of USA Today.

Previously, Paulson served as the editor and senior vice president/news of USA Today. He is now a columnist on USA Today’s board of contributors, writing about First Amendment issues and the news media.

Throughout his career, Paulson has drawn on his background as both a journalist and lawyer, serving as the editor or managing editor of newspapers in five different states.

He was on the team of journalists who founded USA Today in 1982 before moving on to manage newsrooms in Westchester County, N.Y., Green Bay, Wis., Bridgewater, N.J. and at Florida Today in Brevard County, Fla.

Paulson is also the founder of 1 for All, an unprecedented national campaign on behalf of the First Amendment, launched on July 1, 2010, with support from more than 1,100 news, arts and religious organizations.

He also is past-president of the American Society of News Editors, the nation’s largest organization of news-media leaders.

Paulson also was the host of the Emmy-honored television program "Speaking Freely," seen in more than 60 PBS markets nationwide over five seasons, and the author of "Freedom Sings," a multimedia stage show celebrating the First Amendment that continues to tour the nation’s campuses.

He was an early advocate of making newspaper content available online, launching online newspapers in both Florida and New York in 1993.

For the past 12 years, Paulson has been a regular guest lecturer at the American Press Institute, speaking to more than 5,000 journalists about First Amendment issues. He was honored with the API Lifetime Service Award. In 2010 and 2011, he served as chair of the PBS Editorial Standards Review Committee.

In 2007, he was named fellow of the Society of Professional Journalists, "the highest honor SPJ bestows upon a journalist for extraordinary contributions to the profession." In 2008, he received the Robert S. Abbott Memorial Award for Meritorious Service in Mass Communications from the Southern Regional Press Institute. He has also been elected to the Illini Publishing Hall of Fame at the University of Illinois.

In October 2012, he will receive the Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism.

He is a graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law and the University of Missouri School of Journalism. He also has served as an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt University Law School. In 2008, he received an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from American University.

Posts by Ken Paulson:

John Seigenthaler: A champion of the First Amendment

Crusading journalist never retired from his passion for the First Amendment, the sense that every voice has value.

Young Americans have free-speech rights, too

It’s encouraging that 2014 State of the First Amendment survey shows most people say high school students should have same freedom to exercise their first freedoms as adults do.

The high stakes for short messages

Parody twitter accounts deserve the full protection of the First Amendment.

Press, Press Commentary | | January 24, 2014

Bloggers enjoy First Amendment protection against libel suits

In a landmark decision, a federal appellate court held for the first time that blogs enjoy the same First Amendment protection from libel suits as traditional news media.

Speech Commentary | | October 5, 2013

Crass though it may be, this tweet is free speech

It’s not just athletes and celebrities that damage their careers with indiscreet tweets.

Press | | September 22, 2013

Stephen Stills honored for free speech through music

In recognition of the power of free speech set to music, the First Amendment Center and the Americana Music Association join together each year to honor a prominent musician who has used his or her music to contribute to the markeplace of ideas. Awardees have come from a wide musical and political spectrum, including Johnny Cash, Joan Baez, Kris Kristofferson, Charlie Daniels and Mavis Staples.

America’s favorite freedom

State of the First Amendment survey showing 47% of Americans saying free speech is most important right is reassuring affirmation of how crucial speaking your mind is in a democracy.

Press | | May 22, 2013

Is Congress ready to step up in support of shield law?

In the wake of revelations that the Justice Department had subpoenaed the phone records of Associated Press reporters, many members of Congress were quick to share their outrage.

The week the First Amendment was made for

This is the week the First Amendment was made for. Those of us who regularly work on freedom of expression issues are sometimes hard-pressed to convey the urgency of protecting these core freedoms. Concepts like freedom of speech, faith and assembly can seem abstract. Many view freedom of the press as just a news media issue. And few recognize the role of petition in shaping our nation.

Religion | | May 2, 2013

Ten Commandments controversy revisited

It’s been almost 10 years since the Rutherford County, Tennessee, lost a very expensive lawsuit over the posting of the Ten Commandments in the county Courthouse. Now, Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold has posted the Ten Commandments in his department’s lobby, along with a copy of the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.

“Freedom” writer Richie Havens: A lasting legacy

Singer-Songwriter Richie Havens died this week at age 72, leaving behind a legacy of rich performances and compositions.

Press | | April 19, 2013

‘Ag-gag’ bills harm free speech: Column

Concern about videos of alleged animal abuse reaching a global audience has inspired a new wave of legislation across the USA. Bills pending in at least nine states would limit videos and photographs on farms or force video-takers to immediately turn them over to the authorities.

Speech | | April 17, 2013

Liberty and leaflets on a college campus

A student at Des Moines Area Community College is challenging the school’s limits on leafleting on First Amendment grounds.

Press | | April 9, 2013

Buying time for a free press

Colorado District Court Judge Carlos Samour Jr. has postponed a decision on whether Fox News reporter Jana Winter will be required to reveal her anonymous sources.

Crackdown on comedy in Egypt

Egypt has reportedly arrested a comedian for mocking President Mohamed Morsi, prompting criticism by the U.S. State Department.

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