National campaign encourages all Americans to reflect on the valuable role a free press plays


When unthinking people let phrases like "fake news" roll off their tongues, they fail to consider what "no news" would look like.

Those of us who work to help the public understand and appreciate the value of a free press are often left to abstract arguments about accountability and transparency, with frequent mention of James Madison.

But today Americans are facing an unprecedented threat, and the information you provide is saving lives.

That story needs to be told. The Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University has developed a national campaign featuring a diverse group of Americans and this message about journalism.

These ads have been configured for print and online, in multiple sizes and are available for immediate download at

On the page you’ll also find initial ads in the celebrity-driven campaign set for July 4. Each features a prominent artist, author or performer explaining why their work is fueled by one of the five freedoms. We’ll have more details and star power as Independence Day approaches.

I’ve also written a companion guest column you may want to use detailing how COVID-19 is threatening the future of newsgathering. The lead: Three handy tips for coping with COVID-19: Wash your hands frequently. Wear a mask outdoors. And subscribe to a local newspaper or website. The column can be found at

Finally, we hope you’re aware of the many resources the Free Speech Center provides for journalists and the public at Our First Amendment Encyclopedia is the single most comprehensive free reference work on the five freedoms, our news section includes daily updates on the First Amendment and COVID- 19 and our reporter hotline at 615-898-2195 offers one-hour turnaround for most journalists’ questions.

Our deep thanks to America's Newspapers for its support, and to all who help us convey to the public the essential and noble work you do. And if you do use these ads, please let us know at

Free Speech Center Director Ken Paulson is a former editor-in-chief of USA TODAY, former ASNE president and longtime director of the 1 for All Campaign for the First Amendment:

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