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:

When online reviews lead to lawsuits

Hotels, doctor and other ratings are controversial, but courts view most as free speech.

McCollum v. Board of Education: A lesson in liberty

The Champaign public school district’s decision to invite representatives of multiple faiths to teach in its classrooms led to a historic U.S. Supreme Court decision handed down 65 years ago on March 8, 1948 For the first time, the Court declared that the establishment clause of the First Amendment applied to the states, sharply limiting efforts to incorporate religious activities into public schools.

Press Commentary | | February 14, 2013

Restrictions on paparazzi take toll on First Amendment

It’s open season on paparazzi in celebrity-laden states as legislatures gear up to protect the rich and famous. Most recently, the Hawaii legislature was so grateful that Steven Tyler purchased a home on Maui that they named an anti-paparazzi bill after him

Speech Commentary | | January 28, 2013

Free speech and the right to be crass

A measure of our freedom is how foolish we’re allowed to be in exercising our rights, as in the case of the man who praised the Newtown shootings on Facebook.

N.Y. gun law turns public records private

State Legislature gives gun-permit holders wide latitude to keep their records out of public view. Also:

Speech Commentary | | January 8, 2013

Elvis, who’d be 78 today, still shaking us up

It’s a measure of Presley’s music that it continues to be played all over the globe and a measure of his style that he can still startle the easily offended.

Press Commentary | | January 4, 2013

Misfire: Gun-permit controversy leads to flawed legislation

Maryland legislator’s bill to prohibit newspapers from publishing information about firearm owners is a baffling backlash against a New York paper’s release of such public records.

Press Commentary | | December 18, 2012

After Newtown: the real toll of ‘journalistic bedlam’

The best protection for a free press is professionalism, and much of the news reporting on the horrible school shootings has fallen short of the basic standard of accuracy vital to journalism.

1 for All | | December 17, 2012

Thousands celebrate First Amendment through freedom to tweet

Winners to be announced in January in contest marking Bill of Rights Day Dec. 15 by encouraging students to tweet about their favorite First Amendment freedom.

Carved in stone: the foundation of freedom

Writer-comedian Chris Bliss’ monument to the Bill of Rights in Phoenix is an inspiring, long-term way to remind Americans of the document that established our core freedoms.

Speech Commentary | | December 4, 2012

Teens learn free speech isn’t free of consequences

In addition to teaching a core curriculum, we should be teaching lessons in liberty, giving students a full taste of the rights and responsibilities inherent in a democracy.

Speech Commentary | | November 30, 2012

Poetry and emotion: when a 6-year-old is censored

North Carolina elementary school that told girl to remove reference to God before reading her poem to students was technically defensible, but it probably would have been better to let her read it as written.

Celebrating the First Amendment: why ‘land of the free’ is more than a lyric

‘Free to Tweet’ scholarship contest is part of the 1 for All campaign to raise awareness and understanding of our core freedoms.

Speech Commentary | | November 21, 2012

Giving thanks: why we can’t take free speech for granted

Arrests in China and India for online comments are in marked contrast to freedom we enjoy because even the newest media are protected by the oldest of American values.

Press Commentary | | November 15, 2012

Calif. anti-paparazzi charges dismissed

Judge rules that the state can curb unsafe driving by photographers chasing celebrities most effectively through traffic laws, not by targeting free-press rights protected by the First Amendment.

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