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.
Freedom Forum Founded
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.
Chips Quinn Scholars Bring Diversity
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, 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.
First Amendment Center Founded
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.
First ‘Free Spirit’ Named
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.
Launching an International Presence
The 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 2000, international initiatives reached 76 countries with conferences, events and partnerships promoting press freedom and free expression.
Pacific Coast Center Opens
The Pacific Coast Center opens in Oakland, Calif., and moves to San Francisco in 1997. The center established a strategic West Coast presence near the Silicon Valley for other Freedom Forum programs and organized its own conferences, events and publications. It also administered national journalism education and diversity initiatives. A signature program of the Center was the Media Diversity Circle, which convened leaders of journalism organizations for women, LGBTQ people and people of color to discuss newsroom and news coverage issues and ways to address them.
Paul Miller Fellows Named
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 and continues today through the National Press Foundation.
The First Amendment on TV
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, Yoko Ono, Susan Sarandon and Russell Simmons discussing their views on free expression and the First Amendment.
Journalists Memorial Dedicated
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.
Media Studies Center Moves to Midtown Manhattan
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.
Newseum Opens in Arlington, Va.
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.
Journalism Administrators and Educators Honored
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.
Mount Rushmore Amphitheater Dedicated
The Freedom Forum contributes $1 million to help fund a 2,000-seat amphitheater at Mount Rushmore, the largest in the National Park Service. Al Neuharth, Charles Overby and former Canadian Prime Minister and Freedom Forum Trustee Brian Mulroney speak at the dedication ceremony.
Journalists Complete Ph.D. Program to Teach
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.
‘Free Press, Fair Press’ Launched
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.
First Amendment Survey Published
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.
‘NewsCapade’ Hits the Road
“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.
‘Freedom Sings’ Debuts
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” toured the country, reaching many college campuses, with its free expression message until 2018.
All Public Schools Receive Religious Liberty Guidelines
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.
Native American Journalism Conference Established
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.
‘Free Spirits’ Fly to D.C.
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.
First Amendment Schools Project Launched
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.
American Indian Journalism Institute Started
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.
Diversity Institute Launched
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.
Al Neuharth Center Dedicated in S.D.
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.
Overby Center Opens in Miss.
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.
Newseum Reopens in D.C.
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.
Digital Classroom Launches
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.
Free Expression Awards Held
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.
‘Power Shift’ Addresses Scandal with Solutions
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.
Newseum Signs Off
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.
Freedom Forum Moves to New Office
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.
Al Neuharth’s Papers Open at Library of Congress
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.
Free Expression Awards Held Online
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.