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Free Press (organization)

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Free Press (organization)

Free Press
Type Advocacy
Key people Robert W. McChesney (co-founder)
Craig Aaron (president and CEO)
Kimberly Longey (chief operating officer)
Timothy Karr (senior director of strategy)
Employees Approx. 35

Free Press is an organization devoted to changing media and technology policies in ways that it believes will strengthen democracy and promote the public interest. Free Press advocates for universal and affordable Internet access, diverse media ownership, public media and substantive investigative journalism.

Free Press was co-founded in 2003 by media scholar Robert W. McChesney, The Nation contributor John Nichols, and Josh Silver, current CEO of United Republic, a foundation challenging the influence of special interests over government policymaking. Craig Aaron is Free Press' current president and CEO. Its board chair is former National Organization for Women head Kim Gandy.

Today Free Press is the largest nonprofit organization devoted to media, technology and democracy in the United States.[1][2] with 600,000 activists and a full-time staff of about 30 based in offices in Washington, D.C., and Florence, Mass.[2]

Free Press is also the organizer of the National Conference for Media Reform,[3] which is held in a different part of the U.S. every couple of years and generally attracts about 2,500 attendees.

The media reform movement focuses on changing public policy to bring about a more democratic media system. Free Press is the principal organizer of the movement, which generally "addresses the effects of a for-profit media system that increasingly fails to fulfill the communications needs of democratic society."[4] The movement really began to take shape in the latter half of 2003, galvanized by controversial orders passed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).[5]

Outreach and issues

Free Press also has an advocacy arm, the Free Press Action Fund. Both rely on the support of individuals, foundations and public charities to address issues including media ownership and the ongoing trend of media consolidation; the need to support public and independent media outlets; the fight to preserve Net Neutrality; the need for universal access to communications; the importance of maintaining high standards of journalism; and diversity of media ownership. Free Press frequently challenges the Federal Communications Commission to better protect the public interest. Here are short descriptions of Free Press' main areas of focus:[2]

Media Consolidation Free Press opposes the practice of large media corporations gaining further market share by taking over local media outlets.

Public Media Public media refers to publicly funded media outlets like PBS and NPR as well as local community media and PEG (public, education, government) media stations. Free Press believes in the need for strong independent media outlets and advocates for policies to support noncommercial media.[6]

The Future of the Internet Free Press advocates on issues affecting the future of the Internet. Current campaigns focus on Net Neutrality and universal access to fast, open and accessible Internet service. The organization fights to protect Net Neutrality and free speech online.[7]

Quality Journalism According to Free Press, the issue of quality journalism has never been more urgent. Free Press argues that we need media policies that promote quality news, spark innovation, protect journalists, and create a media system that serves the public interest.

Civil Rights & Media Justice Free Press argues that little of what is seen and heard in the media is actually produced by diverse communities. The result is often stereotypical coverage and reports lacking in vital information and viewpoints. Free Press works to promote public policies that foster greater media diversity. Free Press also advocates for universal access to the free and open Internet and the end of the digital divide. Media companies should be held accountable, Free Press argues, for serving their communities.

National Conference for Media Reform

Free Press organizes the National Conference for Media Reform,[3] the nation's biggest and best conference devoted to media, technology and democracy. Activists, journalists, policymakers, technologists, media makers and artists gather to strategize, share skills and inspire during three days of workshops, panels, keynote speeches, performances and parties. Past conferences have been held in Denver (2013), Boston (2011), Minneapolis (2008), Memphis (2007), St. Louis (2005) and Madison, Wis. (2003). The conference features scores of panel discussions, a film festival, tech workshops, music performances, poetry readings, book signings and more.


Free Press and the Free Press Action Fund are supported by individual donors, foundations and public charities. They do not accept funds from business, government or political parties.[8]


Free Press was essential in pushing AT&T to abandon its bid to take over T-Mobile.[9] This merger would have left just two providers (AT&T and Verizon) in control of nearly 80 percent of the wireless market. Free Press has also successfully sued the FCC when it has attempted to weaken its media ownership rules. In 2012 the organization mounted its latest campaign to push the FCC to preserve existing ownership limits and expand ownership opportunities for women and people of color.


Free Press has been the target of numerous attacks toward the group and one of its founders, Robert W. McChesney. Glenn Beck, a conservative news talk show host and one of the Free Press' most vocal opponents, has accused the group of being a socialist/Marxist organization "whose goal it is to limit America's free press and freedom of speech."[10] Beck also claims that Free Press uses the issue of Net Neutrality to further its political agenda and cites the hiring of former Free Press Media Director Jen Howard as the spokesperson for Julius Genachowski, the FCC chair, as evidence of its growing influence.[11]

Board of Directors

Kim Gandy

Gandy, Free Press Board Chair, is the president and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. She previously served as the vice president and general counsel at the Feminist Majority and the Feminist Majority Foundation, and as president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) from 2001-2009.[12]

Craig Aaron

Aaron took the leadership of Free Press and the Free Press Action Fund in April 2011. Craig joined Free Press in 2004 and speaks across the country on media, Internet and journalism issues. [13]

Michael Copps

Michael Copps is a former commissioner and acting chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, where he served from 2001–2011.[14]

Olga M. Davidson

Davidson is a visiting associate professor in the Middle Eastern Studies program at Wellesley College and also serves as chair of the board at the Ilex Foundation.[12]

Maxie C. Jackson III

Jackson serves as president and chief executive officer for the National Federation of Community Broadcasters and previously served as senior director for program development at New York Public Radio.[12]

Robert W. McChesney

McChesney co-founded Free Press and the Free Press Action Fund along with John Nichols and Josh Silver in 2002. He is a professor of communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and author or editor of 13 on media and democracy.[12]

John Nichols

Nichols is the Nation's Washington correspondent and editorial-page editor of the Capital Times in Madison, Wis.[15]

Liza Pike

Pike is the founder of Resource Media's California office and also serves on the board of the Center for Media Change.[12]

Josh Silver (emeritus)

Silver co-founded Free Press and the Free Press Action Fund with Robert McChesney and John Nichols in 2002. He served as CEO and president of Free Press and president of the board of directors of the Free Press Action Fund until 2011. [12]

Loris Ann Taylor

Taylor is executive director of Native Public Media. She serves as a member of the Distribution and Interconnection Committee of the NPR board and is active in the Aspen Institute's Communications and Society program.[12]

See also


External links

  • Free Press official site
  • [1]
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