Kenneth A. Paulson (Sam Kittner/Newseum)

Kenneth A. Paulson
Photo credit: Sam Kittner/Newseum

Kenneth A. Paulson

Former president of the Freedom Forum Institute’s First Amendment Center

Ken Paulson is dean of the College of Media and Entertainment at Middle Tennessee State University and former president of the First Amendment Center of the Freedom Forum Institute.

Paulson also the former editor-in-chief 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. Paulson came to the First Amendment Center in 1997, and retired in 2018, holding several senior executive positions at the Center and at the Newseum. Both initiatives are principally funded by the Freedom Forum foundation. 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, a national campaign on behalf of the First Amendment, launched on July 1, 2010, with support from nearly 1,200 news, arts and religious organizations, and based at the First Amendment Center.

He also is the 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 which toured college campuses from 2000 to 2018.

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

For more than 12 years, Paulson was been a regular guest lecturer at the American Press Institute, speaking to more than 5,000 journalists about First Amendment issues, representing the First Amendment Center and Freedom Forum. 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 received the Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism.

Paulson 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.