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Paul K. McMasters

First Amendment Ombudsman

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Paul McMasters
Paul K. McMasters
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Paul K. McMasters is First Amendment ombudsman for the Freedom Forum. McMasters is one of the nation's leading experts on First Amendment and press issues. He is a 31-year veteran of journalism who came to the Freedom Forum in 1992 to serve as executive director of its First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University. Before that, he was associate editorial director of USA TODAY.

In 1995, he assumed his current role as First Amendment ombudsman at Freedom Forum headquarters in Arlington, Va. As ombudsman, he works to educate and inform about First Amendment issues that arise in Congress, the courts, the media, and other areas of public life.

McMasters speaks and writes frequently on all aspects of First Amendment rights and values, in particular free speech, free press, censorship, journalism ethics, and access to government information. Media appearances include NBC's "Today" show, PBS's "NewsHour," CNN's "Larry King Live," "Crossfire," and "Burden of Proof," MSNBC, CNBC, Fox News Channel, Court TV and Newstalk TV. He has testified before a number of government commissions and congressional committees, most recently the Senate Sub-Committee on Terrorism, Technology and Government Information; the Moynihan Commission on Government Secrecy; the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Information, and Technology; and the House Judiciary Committee. His most recent publications include a chapter titled "A First Amendment Perspective on Public Journalism" in Mixed News: The Public/Civic/ Communitarian Journalism Debate. His essay, "Free Speech versus Civil Discourse: Where Do We Go From Here?" was selected for inclusion in the college reader, Ten Things Every American Government Student Should Read.

McMasters is the recipient of the 2000 John Peter and Anna Catherine Zenger Award for Freedom of the Press and the People's Right to Know. The Zenger Award is named for a husband and wife team of pioneering journalists. John Peter Zenger was editor of the New York Weekly Journal in 1734. He was jailed by British authorities on charges of seditious libel as a result of his criticism of New York's governor. While Zenger was imprisoned, his wife continued to publish the newspaper. Zenger was acquitted in a landmark decision in press history.

McMasters is active in a number of press groups and is the former national president of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the nation's largest and most broad-based press organization. He also served four years as the National Freedom of Information chair for the SPJ and now serves as president of the SDX Foundation, the education arm of SPJ.

Browse all Paul McMasters columns

Related

2001 National Freedom of Information Day Conference
Annual National Freedom of Information Day conference March 16 at The Freedom Forum in Arlington, Va.  04.11.01

Resources for 'Access and Technology: Recovering the Promise'
Resources for 2000 National Freedom of Information Day conference.  03.14.00

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