Founders

Al NeuharthAl Neuharth is the founder of the Freedom Forum, a nonpartisan foundation dedicated to free press, free speech and free spirit for all people. The Freedom Forum funds and operates the Newseum, the First Amendment Center and the Diversity Institute.

Neuharth was chairman of the Freedom Forum from 1986 to 1997, and was a trustee of the foundation and its predecessor, the Gannett Foundation, from 1965 to 1999.

He is founder of the nation’s most widely read newspaper, USA TODAY, and former chairman and chief executive officer of the Gannett Co.

Neuharth has authored eight books. His autobiography, Confessions of an S.O.B., had a long run on The New York Times and other bestseller lists. The hardcover book had five printings by Doubleday. World paperback rights were sold and the book has been translated into five foreign languages.

He writes a weekly column for the domestic and international editions of USA TODAY called “Plain Talk.” It also appears in other newspapers.

Neuharth was born on March 22, 1924, in Eureka, S.D. At age 11, he took his first job as a newspaper carrier and later as a youth worked in the composing room at the weekly Alpena (S.D.) Journal. After graduating from Alpena High School and briefly attending Northern State University in South Dakota, he served as a combat infantryman in World War II. He was awarded the Bronze Star.

After the war, Neuharth attended the University of South Dakota, where he majored in journalism. When he graduated in 1950, he joined The Associated Press in Sioux Falls, S.D., as a reporter.

In 1952, he and a friend launched a statewide weekly tabloid called SoDak Sports. The newspaper failed financially. In 1954, broke and in debt, Neuharth got a job as a reporter on the Miami Herald. Over the next seven years, he was promoted from reporter through many editorial positions to assistant managing editor. In 1960, he was named assistant executive editor of the Detroit Free Press. Both are members of the Knight Ridder newspaper group.

Neuharth joined Gannett as general manager of its two Rochester, N.Y., newspapers in 1963. In 1966, he assumed the added role of president of Gannett Florida and started a new newspaper, TODAY, later renamed Florida TODAY.

Neuharth is married to Dr. Rachel Fornes, a Cocoa Beach, Fla., chiropractor. They have six chosen (adopted) children. Neuharth also has two children by his first marriage.

Neuharth resides in Cocoa Beach in a renovated log cabin called Pumpkin Center. He does his writing there in a beachside treehouse that overlooks the Kennedy Space Center launch pads.

John SeigenthalerJohn Seigenthaler founded the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center in 1991 with the mission of creating national discussion, dialogue and debate about First Amendment rights and values.

A former president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Seigenthaler served for 43 years as an award-winning journalist for The Tennessean, Nashville’s morning newspaper. At his retirement he was editor, publisher and CEO. He retains the title chairman emeritus. In 1982, Seigenthaler became founding editorial director of USA TODAY and served in that position for a decade, retiring from both the Nashville and national newspapers in 1991.

Seigenthaler left journalism briefly in the early 1960s to serve in the U.S. Justice Department as administrative assistant to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. His work in the field of civil rights led to his service as chief negotiator with the governor of Alabama during the Freedom Rides. During that crisis, while attempting to aid Freedom Riders in Montgomery, Ala., he was attacked by a mob of Klansmen and hospitalized.

Seigenthaler hosts a weekly book-review program, “A Word On Words.” Since the death of Arthur Schlesinger Jr. he has chaired the Robert F. Kennedy Book Awards for the RFK Memorial, and he formerly chaired the annual “Profile in Courage Award” selection committee of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

Seigenthaler served on the 18-member National Commission on Federal Election Reform organized in 2001 by former Presidents Carter and Ford. He is a member of the Constitution Project on Liberty and Security, created after the Sept. 11 tragedies in New York and Washington.

In 2002, the trustees of Vanderbilt University created the John Seigenthaler Center, naming the building at 18th Avenue South and Edgehill Avenue that houses the offices of the Freedom Forum, the First Amendment Center and the Diversity Institute. The John Seigenthaler Center encompasses 57,000 square feet and includes a three-story expansion that was funded by the Freedom Forum and donated to Vanderbilt.

A chair in First Amendment Studies was endowed for $1.5 million in Seigenthaler’s name at Middle Tennessee State University. Scholarship projects are endowed at both Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee State in Seigenthaler’s name.

Seigenthaler is the author of a biography, James K. Polk, published by Times Books and released in January 2004.

The First Amendment Center works nationwide to preserve and protect First Amendment freedoms through information and education. The center, with offices at Vanderbilt and Washington, D.C., serves as a forum for the study and exploration of free-expression issues, including freedom of speech, of the press and of religion, the right to assemble and petition the government.

John C. QuinnJohn C. Quinn spent nearly 50 years in the news business, including serving as the chief news executive for Gannett Co. when USA TODAY was launched, and as USA TODAY’s editor from 1983 until 1988 and its editor-in-chief in 1988 and 1989. In Confessions of an S.O.B. (Doubleday, 1989), Al Neuharth described Quinn as “farseeing and foresighted, hungry but humane, passionate” and noted that Quinn became “the conscience of our company.”

Quinn started his news career as a copy boy at the Providence, R.I., Journal-Bulletin in 1943 and retired as executive vice president/news and director of Gannett Co. in 1990.

He was with the Journal-Bulletin for 23 years, rising to day managing editor when he left in 1966 to join Gannett, where he held news executive roles for 24 years. His Gannett career included serving as chief news executive for Gannett when USA TODAY was launched in 1982 and as USA TODAY’s editor from 1983 until 1988 and its editor-in-chief in 1988 and 1989.

“Next to putting out a good page one, diversifying the staff was one of the most satisfying parts of my job,” Quinn said in a 2002 magazine interview.

“He not only practiced, but preached equal opportunity for everyone,” said Al Neuharth, Gannett’s former chief executive officer and the founder of USA TODAY.

Quinn was president of the Associated Press Managing Editors in 1972 and president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1982.

In 1986, the National Press Foundation named Quinn “editor of the year.” In 1987, the University of Kansas gave Quinn the William Allen White National Citation Award. Quinn also was president of the Gannett News Service in 1980 when it won the Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for Public Service. In 2002, Proud magazine named him one of “The Most Notable Ambassadors of Diversity.” Quinn was a 2007 recipient of the Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in the Media.

After his retirement from Gannett, Quinn became deputy chairman of the Freedom Forum. In 1991, Quinn and his late wife, Loie, established the Freedom Forum’s Chips Quinn Scholars program in memory of their son John C. “Chips” Quinn Jr. To date about 1,100 students of color have participated in the journalism training, internship and scholarship program, with approximately 67 percent of graduates working in the news business today.

Retired publisher John H. McMillan of Salem, Oregon, wrote this about John Quinn:

“John improved the quality of journalism at a great many newspapers, nurtured scores of journalists (including me), forced the nation’s editors to confront racism in their employment practices, insisted the third national newspaper in the United States report comprehensively without respect to the real or imagined opinions of its founder, and, when he retired, created a magnificent program to encourage persons of color in the practice of journalism. Very sadly to me, ‘the media’ never gave him the credit due him because his Uncle Denny had told him not to engage in self-promotion, and he never did.”