About Dean Paulson

Ken Paulson

Ken Paulson

Ken Paulson is a lawyer who combines his passions for journalism, free expression and popular music. Before assuming the role of dean in July 2013, he was most recently the president and chief executive officer of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Paulson served as editor-in-chief of USA TODAY from 2004 to 2009. 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. He is now a columnist on USA TODAY’s board of contributors, writing about First Amendment issues and the news media.

A member of The Recording Academy and a former music journalist, Paulson is active in the Nashville music community, serving as vice chair of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame; a member of the Music City Music Council, convened by Mayor Karl Dean; and a Leadership Music board and executive committee member.

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.

Paulson led the First Amendment Center, an arm of the Freedom Forum, from 1997 to 2004. After his stint at USA TODAY, he served as president of the Newseum, the interactive museum of news and journalism opened by the Freedom Forum in Washington, D.C., from 2009 to 2010. He is also founder of 1 for All, an unprecedented national campaign on behalf of the First Amendment, launched July 1, 2010, with support from more than 1,100 news, arts and religious organizations.

Paulson returned to the First Amendment Center in 2010. As dean of the MTSU College of Mass Communication, he continues to write, speak and consult with the center on free expression issues.

For 12 years, Paulson was a regular guest lecturer at the American Press Institute, teaming with First Amendment Center founder John Seigenthaler to speak to more than 5,000 journalists about First Amendment issues. He was honored with the API Lifetime Service Award, and in 2010 and 2011, he served as chair of the PBS Editorial Standards Review Committee.

He is past president of the American Society of News Editors, the nation’s largest organization of news media leaders.

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.

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 and the Vanderbilt Law School. In 2008, he received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from American University.

He has also been elected to the Illini Publishing Hall of Fame at the University of Illinois, and in October 2012, he received the Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism. TLE

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