Ken Paulson is president and chief executive officer of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University and in Washington, D.C. Previously, Paulson served as the editor and senior vice president/news 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.
He also is 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 that continues to tour the nation's campuses.
He was an early advocate of making newspaper content available online, launching online newspapers in both Florida and New York in 1993.
For 12 years, Paulson was a regular guest lecturer at the American Press Institute, speaking to more than 5,000 journalists about First Amendment issues. 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, Paulson 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.
He 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.
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