WASHINGTON — Kenneth A. Paulson, editor and senior vice president of news of USA Today and a nationally recognized First Amendment advocate, will become president and chief operating officer of the Newseum and the Freedom Forum in early 2009.
Paulson, 55, succeeds Peter Prichard, who will work on special projects for one year before retiring. Prichard, who will be 65 next year, was also editor of USA Today before joining the Freedom Forum and Newseum 12 years ago.
The change in leadership was announced by Charles L. Overby, chairman and CEO of the Freedom Forum and CEO of the Newseum.
“We are very pleased that Ken is returning to play a major role in shaping the future of our organizations,” Overby said. “He is recognized nationally as an important leader in First Amendment and news issues and his proven leadership qualities will help us continue to develop and expand the reach of our world-class museum.”
Paulson was named editor of USA Today in April 2004. He had been executive director of the First Amendment Center and senior vice president of the Freedom Forum from January 1997 to April 2004.
“I have the greatest admiration for the staff and mission of the Newseum and Freedom Forum, and I'm honored to join them in this role," Paulson said. "It's a rare privilege to spend every day working to build understanding and support for the First Amendment and a free press, and a joy to do that work through such an extraordinary museum."
Overby praised Prichard’s leadership in overseeing the building of the Newseum. “Peter’s work at the Newseum from conception through construction will be seen for generations to come. He provided important leadership over design and construction of the Newseum that made a difference,” Overby said.
For the past 30 years, Paulson has drawn on his background as both a journalist and a lawyer, serving as the editor or managing editor of newspapers in five different states.
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 widely known for his efforts to inform and educate Americans about the First Amendment freedoms.
Paulson also was host of the Emmy-nominated television program “Speaking Freely,” seen in more than 60 PBS markets nationwide over five seasons, and he is the author of “Freedom Sings,” a multimedia stage show celebrating the First Amendment that continues to tour the nation’s campuses and communities.
For the past 10 years, Paulson has been a regular guest lecturer at the American Press Institute, speaking to more than 5,000 journalists about First Amendment issues. He recently was honored along with colleague John Seigenthaler with the API Lifetime Service Award.
Paulson has served on the board of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. He also chairs the organization’s First Amendment 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.”
He is a graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law and the University of Missouri School of Journalism. He has also served as an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt University Law School and is a member of both the Illinois and Florida bars.
The Newseum, located on historic Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., blends five centuries of news history with up-to-the-second technology and hands-on interactive exhibits. The world’s most interactive museum takes visitors behind the scenes of news and instills an appreciation of the importance of a free press and the First Amendment.
The Freedom Forum, a nonpartisan foundation dedicated to free press, free speech and free spirit, is the main funder of the Newseum’s operations. The Newseum, while independent of any media companies, receives additional support from foundations, media organizations and individuals.