First Amendment Center names new executive director

Friday, September 10, 2004

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Two executive appointments were announced Sept. 9 by Freedom Forum Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Charles L. Overby:

  • Gene Policinski was named executive director of the First Amendment Center;
  • Robbie Morganfield was named executive director of the Diversity Institute at Vanderbilt University.
  • “Gene and Robbie have vast experience and will take their programs to new levels,” Overby said. “The First Amendment Center and the Diversity Institute are changing attitudes and lives.”

    Policinski has been acting director of the First Amendment Center since April, when former executive director Ken Paulson was named editor of USA TODAY, and had been deputy director of the center since 2000.

    “The First Amendment Center offers a unique, nonpartisan voice on behalf of our basic freedoms and a free press,” Policinski said. “Our work with educators, lawyers, judges, and other leaders in government and society is needed now more than ever.”

    Morganfield has directed operations of the Diversity Institute since June, when former executive director Wanda Lloyd became editor of the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser. He has been training editor/instructor at the institute since it opened in 2002.

    “I'm thrilled by the opportunity to apply all the training and experience I've acquired over the years to the kind of work that we've started at the Diversity Institute,” Morganfield said. “This position provides a school of challenges that will allow me to grow in new and exciting ways while also being involved in work that I value and that I know really makes a difference.”

    The First Amendment Center and the Diversity Institute are operating programs of the Freedom Forum, a nonpartisan foundation dedicated to free press, free speech and free spirit for all people. The foundation, which is based in Arlington, Va., focuses on three priorities: the Newseum, the interactive museum of news under development in Washington, D.C.; the First Amendment and newsroom diversity.

    Policinski came to the Freedom Forum in 1996 from USA TODAY. He began his journalism career in 1969 in Indiana, at the Greenfield (Ind.) Daily Reporter, and then at the Marion, Ind., Chronicle-Tribune. In 1980, he moved to the Washington, D.C., bureau of Gannett News Service and covered Congress, military and political issues. In 1982, he was named Washington editor of USA TODAY during its development and launch. He later was named a Page One editor, and managing editor/sports. He is the founding editor of USA TODAY Baseball Weekly. From 1991 through 1993 he was the on-air host of news, sports and information programs on USA TODAY Sky Radio. He also helped develop USA TODAY's first online ventures. From 1998 to 2001, he was the host of “Newseum Radio,” a weekly, one-hour magazine program heard on National Public Radio Worldwide. Since 2001, he has been executive producer of the First Amendment Center's weekly television program, “Speaking Freely,” seen nationwide on public television.

    Morganfield is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of newsroom and classroom experience. He joined the Diversity Institute in 2002. He has worked as an editor and reporter at the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram, The Detroit News, the Houston Chronicle, the Tulsa (Okla.) Tribune and the Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Sun-Sentinel. Morganfield also has taught journalism at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, where he was named outstanding faculty member; and at St. Augustine's College in Raleigh, N.C., the University of Texas-Arlington, and at Texas Christian University-Fort Worth. He holds a master of divinity degree with special emphasis in practical theology and ethics from Texas Christian University; a master of arts in public affairs journalism, with minor studies in educational policy and leadership, from the Ohio State University -Columbus; and is a graduate of the University of Mississippi.

    The First Amendment Center and the Diversity Institute are located in the John Seigenthaler Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville:

  • Information about the First Amendment Center, along with daily updates and news reports, essays and in-depth commentary and analysis about First Amendment issues, is available at this Web site.
  • The Diversity Institute has graduated six classes. The institute trains non-traditional students to work at their local daily newspaper in the United States. Most students are making a career transition into journalism.

    The Freedom Forum was established in 1991 under the direction of Founder Allen H. Neuharth as successor to a foundation started in 1935 by newspaper publisher Frank E. Gannett. The Freedom Forum is not affiliated with Gannett Co. Its work is supported by income from an endowment of diversified assets.

    For photos of Policinski and Morganfield, as well as information about the Freedom Forum and its First Amendment Center, Diversity Institute and Newseum programs, contact:

    Jenny Atkinson, 615/727-1303 or
    The Freedom Forum Communications Department, 703/284-2895.

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