Former editor of USA TODAY Ken Paulson reflects on the Newseum’s impact as it closes its doors

Biography :
Kenneth A. Paulson (1953–) is director of the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University and former president of the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center. Paulson has developed and led several national programs to increase understanding of the First Amendment and its role in society. Paulson is former editor in chief of USA Today and dean of the College of Media and Entertainment at Middle Tennessee State University. Kenneth A. Paulson (1953–), director of the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University and former president of the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center, has developed and led several national programs to increase understanding of the First Amendment and its role in society. Paulson is former editor in chief of USA Today and dean of the College of Media and Entertainment at Middle Tennessee State University. Ken Paulson is a lawyer and journalist A lawyer and journalist, Paulson earned an undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Missouri in 1975 and graduated from the College of Law at the University of Illinois in 1978. He is a member of the Florida and Illinois bars. His journalism career included being on the team that founded USA Today in 1982. He also managed newsrooms in Westchester County, N.Y., Green Bay, Wis., Bridgewater, N.J. and at Florida Today in Brevard County, Fla. Paulson has worked for several First Amendment projects Paulson’s passion for the First Amendment accelerated when he assumed leadership of the First Amendment Center in Nashville, Tennessee, which was founded by longtime editor and publisher John Seigenthaler in 1991. From that position, Paulson created and wrote Freedom Sings, a program on music censorship. He founded and hosted Speaking Freely, an Emmy-honored weekly television program on free expression featuring interviews with artist. He also cohosted a series of seminars about free expression with Seigenthaler and wrote a nationally syndicated column entitled “Inside the First Amendment.” In 2004, Paulson left the First Amendment Center and the Freedom Forum to become editor of USA Today. While there, in 2007, he founded 1 for All, a national campaign to educate young people about the role of the First Amendment in our democracy. In 2009, Paulson became president and chief operating officer for the Freedom Forum. In 2010, he was named president and chief executive officer of the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center in Nashville. He retired from this position in December 2018. Paulson became dean of the College of Media and Entertainment at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee in 2013. He continues to be a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors and writes columns on the First Amendment and media issues. He also continues to lead First Amendment programming through his work with MTSU’s John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies, including the online development of The First Amendment Encyclopedia.

Quote :USA TODAY Founder Al Neuharth was a brilliant news executive, but he had his quirks. Proud of his South Dakota roots, he had something of a chip on his shoulder, disdaining East Coast elites and daring them to mock his unconventional ideas. In 1982, he launched USA TODAY, a colorful newspaper filled with concise stories and groundbreaking graphics. Early critics derided it as a “comic book” or “McPaper.” Neuharth loved it.,“There is no faster way to bring public support than to pursue military action,” said Ken Paulson, head of the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center. “It’s a pattern not only in American history, but in world history. We rally around the commander in chief — and that’s understandable.” Paulson noted that the news media also “seem to get bored with their own narrative” about Trump’s failings, and they welcome a chance to switch it up. But that’s not good enough, he said: “The watchdog has to have clear vision and not just a sporadic bark.”

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