Freedom Forum Timeline
1A Fest Celebrates Freedom at the Wharf
Sep. 9, 2023
Crowds gather to celebrate First Amendment freedoms with a free festival featuring exhibits, interactive activities, talks and games at The Wharf – home of the Freedom Forum’s new D.C. headquarters. Guests get behind-the-scenes looks at news, satire and athlete activism. The Freedom Lost Café immerses visitors in a fictional world with free food – but no First Amendment – to offer visitors an opportunity to know and value their First Amendment freedoms.
Pictured: Former NFL player Nate Boyer and journalist Joie Chen.
Freedom Forum Opens New D.C. Waterfront Headquarters
Sep. 7, 2023
The Freedom Forum opens its new D.C. headquarters at The Wharf with a special event for supporters and friends featuring a conversation with First Amendment reporters Angele Latham and Douglas Soule. Dedicated to covering First Amendment issues for The Tennessean and USA TODAY Network-Florida, the reporters’ positions are funded by Freedom Forum through Journalism Funding Partners. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and former Sen. Don Nickles (R-Oklahoma) speak of the importance of First Amendment freedoms. The new offices serve as a workspace for employees, a home for selected artifacts from the Freedom Forum’s Newseum Collection and a venue for programming, partnerships and community engagement.
Pictured: Onstage from left, John Maynard, Freedom Forum senior director/programs, and First Amendment reporters Angele Latham and Douglas Soule.
Free Spirits Return to D.C.
Jun. 24, 2023
The annual Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference for high school juniors returns to the nation’s capital after three years of being held virtually. Students hear from top journalists and visit C-SPAN, The Wall Street Journal’s Washington office, the U.S. Capitol and other landmarks in Washington, D.C. Maria Hinojosa, the founder of Futuro Media Group, receives the Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in Media at a Free Spirit luncheon.
FEA 2023 Spotlights Dissent, Danger and Censorship
Jun. 8, 2023
The 2023 Free Expression Awards honor courageous and innovative First Amendment champions at Union Station in Washington, D.C. Honorees include Alexey Navalny, a Russian dissident who was poisoned and imprisoned for speaking out against Vladimir Putin’s regime; journalists Evan Gershkovich and Austin Tice to represent all journalists unjustly held around the world; and the Brooklyn Public Library for making banned books accessible to students online.
Pictured: Leonid Volkov, chief of staff for FEA honoree Alexey Navalny
Freedom Forum Hosts the Gridiron Club Afterparty
Mar. 11, 2023
The Gridiron Club’s annual white-tie dinner has hosted and entertained journalists and Washington insiders since 1895. In 2023, the Freedom Forum sponsors the afterparty, transforming a hotel ballroom into a festive space that reminds guests that it’s our First Amendment freedoms – religion, speech, press, assembly and petition – that make such free press and free expression gatherings possible.
Pictured: Freedom Forum Chair and CEO Jan Neuharth and Chief Engagement Officer/Senior VP Engagement Cathy Trost
‘Murfreesboro: One Mosque’s First Amendment Fight to Worship’
Dec. 7, 2022
The short documentary “Murfreesboro: One Mosque’s First Amendment Fight to Worship” premieres in Washington, D.C., before a conversation with mosque members and others interviewed for the film.
First Amendment Festival Hosted in Union City, Tenn.
Sep. 24, 2022
More than 3,000 visitors gather at Discovery Park of America for fun, freedom and fellowship, and to explore the rights that Americans treasure. Festivities include games, First Amendment conversations, an interview with Fox News anchor Bret Baier and music from the Gatlin Brothers. During the festival, the Freedom Forum announces a partnership with Journalism Funding Partners to establish a First Amendment reporter at The Tennessean.
Campus Tour: First Stop, University of Georgia
Sep. 8, 2022
Eighty students join the Freedom Forum at the University of Georgia to discuss the free speech issues college students face every day. Additional stops on the 2022 Freedom Forum Campus Tour include the University of South Dakota’s Dakota Days celebrations on Oct. 22 and Morgan State University on Nov. 15.
Pictured: Freedom Forum First Amendment Specialist Kevin Goldberg and 11Alive News anchor Jennifer Bellamy.
Free Expression Awards Hosted in Person and Online
Apr. 28, 2022
The 2022 Free Expression Awards event honors First Amendment heroes in person at the Anthem in Washington, D.C., and online, the program’s first hybrid presentation. Honorees include journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, former Justice Department special counsel for religious discrimination Eric Treene and the co-founders of Stop AAPI Hate: Manjusha P. Kulkarni, Cynthia Choi and Russell Jeung. Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, receives the 2022 Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in the Media.
‘The First Amendment: Where America Stands’ Survey Released
Sep. 25, 2021
A survey of more than 3,000 Americans reveals that our views of the First Amendment are as diverse and divided as the country itself, but it remains valued and vital for nearly all Americans. “Where America Stands” expands and builds on the Freedom Forum’s “State of the First Amendment” surveys conducted from 1997-2018.
Freedom Forum Turns 30
Jul. 4, 2021
July 4, 2021, marks the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Freedom Forum. Join in our celebration by engaging with our programs and initiatives and supporting our work.
Wilkerson Receives Neuharth Award
Jun. 22, 2021
Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author Isabel Wilkerson receives the 30th Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in the Media. First awarded to Walter Cronkite in 1989, the award honors individuals for a lifetime of achievement in journalism.
Free Expression Awards Held Online
Apr. 15, 2021
The Freedom Forum hosts its first virtual Free Expression Awards event, honoring nine people who exemplify freedom of expression, including activist DeRay Mckesson and Hong Kong pro-democracy publisher Jimmy Lai, and launching a new video that highlights the urgency of protecting First Amendment freedoms for future generations.
Pictured: Jan Neuharth, Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the Freedom Forum.
Al Neuharth’s Papers Open at Library of Congress
Sep. 15, 2020
In an online event, the Freedom Forum and Library of Congress celebrate the availability to researchers of more than 250 boxes of papers Al Neuharth donated to the library in 2005. The papers chronicle Neuharth’s life and career as a journalist, media executive, founder of USA TODAY and champion of diversity and the First Amendment, with Gannett Co., the Gannett Foundation, the Freedom Forum and the Newseum.
Freedom Forum Moves to New Office
Mar. 3, 2020
The Freedom Forum moves to its new headquarters at 300 New Jersey Ave., Washington, D.C., to continue its mission to foster First Amendment Freedoms for all. Work soon shifts online due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Newseum Signs Off
Dec. 31, 2019
After welcoming 11 million visitors in 11 years and showcasing more than 60 changing exhibits, the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., closes.
‘Power Shift’ Addresses Scandal with Solutions
Jan. 9, 2018
In response to sex abuse scandals involving major media figures, the Newseum convenes the Power Shift Summit, seeking solutions-based alternatives for employees facing abuse and emphasizing the need for diversity and inclusiveness in America’s newsrooms. The summit launches the Power Shift Project, with grant funding from CBS to implement its Workplace Integrity Training program, designed to produce workplaces free of harassment, discrimination and incivility, and filled with opportunity, especially for those who have traditionally been denied it.
Pictured: Power Shift Summit participants (left to right) Madhulika Sikka, Loren Mayor, Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews and Freedom Forum Fellow and moderator Jill Geisler.
Free Expression Awards Held
Apr. 19, 2016
The Freedom Forum’s first annual Free Expression Awards ceremony recognizes individuals for their dedication to the freedoms of the First Amendment. Honorees from 2016 to the present have included journalists, activists, athletes, politicians, attorneys, clerics, media executives and others who have made a difference by exercising their First Amendment freedoms.
Digital Classroom Launches
Mar. 21, 2011
The Education Department launches the Digital Classroom website with support from the Ford Foundation. The education site marks the first step in making Newseum content available online to educators everywhere, with lesson plans and videos based on Newseum galleries. Later revamped as NewseumED, the Freedom Forum’s ongoing digital education offerings reach more than 11 million students, educators and lifelong learners around the globe.
Newseum Reopens in D.C.
Apr. 11, 2008
The Newseum reopens on Pennsylvania Avenue, in Washington, D.C., with 15 galleries and 15 theaters. It becomes a destination for tourists and schoolchildren as well as conferences and galas. Visitors experience the story of news, the role of a free press in major events in history, and how the freedoms of the First Amendment — religion, speech, press, assembly and petition — apply to their lives.
Overby Center Opens in Miss.
Sep. 21, 2007
The Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics opens at the University of Mississippi to honor graduate Charles Overby, former chairman and chief executive officer of the Freedom Forum, Newseum and Diversity Institute. The Overby Center features programs, multimedia displays and publications exploring the complex relationships between politicians and the press, with a focus on Southern perspectives.
Al Neuharth Center Dedicated in S.D.
Sep. 25, 2003
The Al Neuharth Media Center at the University of South Dakota (USD) is dedicated to honor alumnus and Freedom Forum founder Al Neuharth. The center has been home to South Dakota Public Broadcasting, the national headquarters of the Native American Journalists Association and USD’s journalism school and campus media.
Diversity Institute Launched
Jun. 2, 2002
The Diversity Institute launches at the First Amendment Center with a 12-week newsroom training program in partnership with local newspapers. In 2007, the institute overhauled its curricula to prepare journalists to be versatile and vital in the digital age. This initiative expanded the Freedom Forum’s advocacy of journalism diversity through early support for the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, California Chicano News Media Association, National Association of Black Journalists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Native American Journalists Association, Asian American Journalists Association and International Women’s Media Foundation.
Pictured: Diversity Institute Winter 2006 Class of Scholars, left to right, Martin Ricard (standing in white shirt), Sheldon Scruggs, (sitting), Carolyn Barker Thompson, Jonathan Babalola, Kymburleigh Tyler and Louis Medina.
American Indian Journalism Institute Started
Jun. 3, 2001
Thirty-eight students participate in the first American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota’s Al Neuharth Center. A joint effort of the Freedom Forum and the University of South Dakota, the institute ran for 13 years and drew 200 students to a program designed to promote participation in the news media and improve coverage about Native Americans.
First Amendment Schools Project Launched
May. 7, 2001
From 2001-2005, the First Amendment Center and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) team up to launch the First Amendment Schools project, a national initiative designed to help schools affirm First Amendment principles and put them into action throughout their communities. Participating schools pledge to integrate First Amendment rights and civic responsibilities into the daily lives of their schools. The Freedom Forum’s Charles Haynes, above, helped lead the effort.
‘Free Spirits’ Fly to D.C.
Nov. 3, 2000
Student journalists and advisers from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., convene at Freedom Forum headquarters for the first Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference. More than 1,500 students have participated in the annual conference that celebrates the First Amendment and promotes journalism as a career.
Pictured: Al Neuharth with Free Spirit scholars in 2012.
Native American Journalism Conference Established
Apr. 28, 2000
High school and college students gather at Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota for the first Native American Journalism Career Conference. More than 1,200 students participated in the 12-year program designed to encourage Native Americans to pursue journalism careers.
All Public Schools Receive Religious Liberty Guidelines
Jan. 4, 2000
First Amendment Center Senior Scholar Charles Haynes’ religious-liberty guidelines are sent to every public school in the nation at the direction of the U.S. secretary of education. For more than 25 years, the Freedom Forum has provided religious freedom resources endorsed by a broad range of religious and educational organizations to schools nationwide.
‘Freedom Sings’ Debuts
Jul. 13, 1999
The First Amendment Center holds its first “Freedom Sings” event at the Bluebird Café in Nashville, Tenn., to showcase free expression in music and the arts. “Freedom Sings” tours the country, reaching many college campuses, with its free expression message until 2018.
Pictured: A Freedom Sings concert at the First Amendment Center in 2008.
‘NewsCapade’ Hits the Road
Mar. 18, 1999
“NewsCapade with Al Neuharth,” the Newseum’s mobile museum of news, launches a 50-state tour of exhibits and programs. The world’s only traveling interactive museum of news gathered journalists and citizens in every state to discuss the role of a free press and the need for a fair press. The tour began in San Francisco and ended in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in January 2001, on a pier between two Navy ships marking the start and end of World War II for the United States: the sunken U.S.S. Arizona Memorial and the retired battleship U.S.S. Missouri.
First Amendment Survey Published
Dec. 16, 1997
The Freedom Forum issues the first annual “State of the First Amendment” survey evaluating legal, scholarly and public opinions about the First Amendment. The much-cited survey has tracked First Amendment awareness and opinions for more than 20 years.
Pictured: An infographic from the 2016 State of the First Amendment survey.
‘Free Press, Fair Press’ Launched
Sep. 4, 1997
A multimillion-dollar worldwide “Free Press, Fair Press” project to help the public and the news media understand one another better begins. Working through the network of Freedom Forum centers, the project hosted conferences and published reports and articles about press freedom and fairness between 1997 and 2000.
Journalists Complete Ph.D. Program to Teach
Sep. 1, 1997
The first class of the Freedom Forum Ph.D. Program for Journalists completes 27 months of study at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill to earn doctorates in mass communication enabling them to move from the newsroom to the classroom as university professors. Nineteen people participated in the program, which concluded in 2002. This is one of several Freedom Forum scholarship and fellowship programs that has supported scholars’ academic media studies, publications and projects. The Freedom Forum has also funded Journalist in Residence grants to annually place journalists in university faculty positions.
Pictured: American University professor Joseph Campbell, a 1997 graduate of the Freedom Forum Ph.D. Program for Journalists.
Mount Rushmore Amphitheater Dedicated
Jul. 15, 1997
With help from a $1 million Freedom Forum donation, Mount Rushmore dedicates a 2,000-seat amphitheater, the largest in the National Park Service. Above, former Canadian Prime Minister and Freedom Forum trustee Brian Mulroney, Al Neuharth, Charles Overby and Peter Prichard represent the Freedom Forum at the dedication ceremony.
Journalism Administrators and Educators Honored
Jul. 9, 1997
Terry Hynes, dean of the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida, is the first woman named the Freedom Forum’s Journalism Administrator of the Year. A Journalism Teacher of the Year award was added in 1998. The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (AEJMC) and Scripps-Howard Foundation now administer the awards.
Newseum Opens in Arlington, Va.
Apr. 18, 1997
The Newseum opens in Arlington, Va., to help the media and the public understand each other better with news-related artifacts, interactive exhibits, theaters, engaging programs and an education center. After welcoming 2.25 million visitors over five years, the Arlington Newseum closes in March 2002, to plan for its new location in Washington, D.C.
Media Studies Center Moves to Midtown Manhattan
Jun. 1, 1996
The Media Studies Center, a 1984 Gannett Foundation initiative continued by the Freedom Forum, moves from Columbia University in New York City to midtown Manhattan. The move enables the Center to more effectively continue its work as a major media industry think-tank offering conferences, publications, fellowship programs, events and exhibit space for Newseum/NY.
Pictured: Broadcaster Marlene Sanders moderates a 1997 Media Studies Center program about sensationalism in TV news with panelists Steve Dunlop, Al Primo, Paula Walker and Josh Getlin.
Journalists Memorial Dedicated
May. 21, 1996
First lady Hillary Clinton helps dedicate the Journalists Memorial at Freedom Park in Arlington, Va. A new memorial is created as an exhibit at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., in 2008, paying tribute to more than 2,200 reporters, photographers and broadcasters who have died reporting the news. An online database of fallen journalists is available here.
The First Amendment on TV
Sep. 25, 1994
The First Amendment Center produces “Freedom Speaks,” a half-hour issues-oriented First Amendment program that addresses topics like freedom of information, political correctness and flag-burning. The series runs until 1999 and is succeeded by “Speaking Freely,” a series that focuses on the First Amendment, the arts and American culture. The program runs from 2000-2004, with guests that include Robert Redford, above left, Yoko Ono, Susan Sarandon and Russell Simmons discussing their views on free expression and the First Amendment.
Paul Miller Fellows Named
Mar. 4, 1994
Sixteen reporters, newcomers to Washington, D.C., are named Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellows. They receive monthly training to acquaint them with the complex issues, government agencies and influential people they might cover for hometown audiences. The program began under the Gannett Foundation in 1984 to honor former Gannett President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Miller, above, and continues today through the National Press Foundation.
Photo credit: The Associated Press
Pacific Coast Center Opens
Nov. 1, 1993
The Pacific Coast Center opens in Oakland, Calif., and moves to San Francisco in 1997, where it operates until 2001. The center establishes a strategic West Coast presence near the Silicon Valley for other Freedom Forum programs and organizes its own conferences, events and publications. It also administers national journalism education and diversity initiatives. A signature program of the Center, the Media Diversity Circle, convenes leaders of journalism organizations for women, LGBTQ people and people of color to discuss newsroom and news coverage issues and ways to address them.
Pictured: Former CBS Evening News anchor Walter Cronkite at the Pacific Coast Center in 1997.
Launching an International Presence
May. 26, 1992
Following a successful event in Russia, above, the Freedom Forum’s first overseas office opens in Zurich, Switzerland, to advance press freedom initiatives abroad, moving to London in 1996. Other Freedom Forum international offices include the African Center in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Asian Center in Wan Chai, Hong Kong and the Latin American Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Fifteen international journalism libraries opened to inform and train journalists in regions unaccustomed to press freedom. By 2001, international initiatives reached more than 80 countries with conferences, events and partnerships promoting press freedom and free expression.
First ‘Free Spirit’ Named
May. 7, 1992
Terry Anderson, an Associated Press journalist held hostage in Lebanon for nearly seven years, receives the first Free Spirit Award soon after his release in 1991. The award, renamed in 2000 to honor Al Neuharth, was given until 2009 to recognize people who exemplified First Amendment freedoms.
First Amendment Center Founded
Dec. 15, 1991
The First Amendment Center is founded by former editor of The Tennessean, John Seigenthaler, at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. The center’s goal: To increase understanding about the First Amendment freedoms of speech, press, religion, assembly and petition and how they can be protected. The center has produced publications, opinion columns, thought leadership, events, concerts, moot court competitions and television programs. It is now known as the John Seigenthaler Center at Vanderbilt University and remains a Freedom Forum presence in Nashville.
Pictured: Al Neuharth and John Seigenthaler mark the founding of the First Amendment Center in 1991.
Chips Quinn Scholars Bring Diversity
Aug. 30, 1991
The first class of the Chips Quinn Scholars (CQS) Program for Diversity in Journalism completes training and internships designed to bring diverse talent to U.S. newspapers. The program was founded by John C. Quinn, above, former deputy chairman of the Freedom Forum, and his wife, Loie, in honor of their son, John “Chips” Quinn Jr., who was an upstate New York newspaper editor when he was killed in an automobile accident in June 1990. Since 1991, more than 1,400 college students have been trained and mentored by news veterans through the CQS program.
Freedom Forum Founded
Jul. 4, 1991
Independence Day marks the birth of the Freedom Forum, which grew out of the Frank E. Gannett Newspaper Foundation, established by the newspaper publisher in Rochester, N.Y., in 1935.
After Al Neuharth became Gannett’s chief executive officer in 1973, the company became the nation’s largest newspaper chain. The foundation also grew. From 1977 through 1989, it provided nearly $27 million in grants — more than $72 million in 2021 dollars — to further journalism-related education, nonprofits, professional organizations, diversity and other initiatives.
In 1989, the foundation relocated to Arlington, Va., overlooking Washington, D.C., and in 1991 became the Freedom Forum, with a mission to foster First Amendment freedoms.
Pictured left: Charles Overby, Martin Birmingham, Al Neuharth and John Quinn at the document signing ceremony establishing the Freedom Forum. Right: Freedom Forum staff in Arlington, Va.