A note from Ken Paulson, president of the American Society of News Editors:

Free To TweetThere’s an important date coming up in December, and it has nothing to do with gift-giving.

Dec. 15, 2011 will be the 220th birthday of the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights, but you won’t see commemorative events in America’s schools or flags flying on Main Street. In sharp contrast to Independence Day, our nation largely overlooks the importance of the ratification of our most fundamental freedoms. ASNE and its partners in the “1 for All” First Amendment campaign are trying to do something about that.

The campaign is launching an innovative promotion called “Free to Tweet,” to encourage young people to celebrate the First Amendment on that date. Students who tweet about the First Amendment will be eligible to win one of 22 $5,000 scholarships, funded by the Knight Foundation.

Here’s how you can help build awareness of this special event:

  1. Read about the campaign at 1forall.us. The FAQs will give you a good understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish.
  2. Carry ads in support of the campaign. You’ll find both web and print ads at http://1forall.us/media-resources/print-and-web-ads/.
  3. Write about the “Free to Tweet” contest. This could be in the form of an article or an editor’s column. We’d also love to see news organizations editorialize about the importance of the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights, tied to “Free to Tweet.”
  4. Consider publishing my op-ed piece or Gene Policinski’s “Inside the First Amendment” column on “Free to Tweet.” We’ll send you both next week.
  5. Agree to be a guest tweeter on Dec. 15, encouraging students and saluting the First Amendment. Your only commitment is 140 characters on Dec. 15.
  6. If you can help us in any of these ways — and we’re asking every ASNE member to participate — please drop a short note to Charlie Nutt, ASNE member and “Free to Tweet” project director. He’s at cwnutt00@gmail.com and 856-213-5431.

    Please note that all of this is time sensitive. We want to build visibility for the campaign, but the competition only runs from 12:01 EST to 11:59 PST on December 15. That means that in addition to advancing the event, it would be very helpful to jog people’s memories that day. We’ll also have updated ads that say “Today only” to run on December 15.

    ASNE has a self-interest in all of this. If more Americans understand the importance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in preserving our democracy, they will also have a better appreciation of the mission of a free press. We’re all in this together.

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