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2017 Annual Report

Free Press Annual Report
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Free Press CEO Craig Aaron and Rep. Barbara Lee, May 18 Rally for Net Neutrality at the FCC Maria Merkulova
Free Press CEO Craig Aaron and Rep. Barbara Lee, May 18 Rally for Net Neutrality at the FCC Maria Merkulova


Our campaigns inspired millions of people to fight for their rights.


We experimented, took risks and forged new alliances.


We’re getting bigger, louder and stronger every day.

Message from CEO

Dear Friend:

In 2017, your rights to connect and communicate were attacked like never before.

We lost some battles — but the real story belongs to the people who fought back by the millions, changed the political landscape, and are disrupting the Trump administration’s dangerous media and technology agenda.

Craig Aaron with microphone
Maria Merkulova

Throughout the year, people who never before joined a protest took to the streets in big cities and small towns in every state. Young people, people of color, veterans, NASCAR fans, you name it — all raised their voices, put pressure on their elected leaders and took up the fight for internet and press freedom.

As Free Press heads into 2018 — our 15th anniversary year — we’ll build on the incredible grassroots momentum of 2017 in ever bigger and bolder ways. We’re energized and ready for the huge fights ahead. And we’re grateful for the individual donors and foundation partners whose generosity makes our work possible. We’re thrilled to have you by our side.


Craig Aaron's signature

Craig Aaron

President and CEO

Free Press and Free Press Action Fund

We Mobilized Millions

Map of Free Press Action


members. More than 4 million unique website visitors, 125,000 social media followers, and 3,000 press hits.

In 2017, Free Press inspired historic numbers of people to fight for their rights to connect and communicate. All year we pulled off bold and creative campaigns for Net Neutrality, internet freedom, local journalism and press freedom.

This explosion of grassroots engagement on all of our issues has shifted the political landscape. Despite some setbacks under the dangerous Trump administration, our momentum is forcing lawmakers in D.C. and in statehouses to respond. And we’re not just playing defense — we’re planting the seeds for transformative changes to media, technology and democracy.

We Fought For Net Neutrality and Digital Civil Rights

Net Neutrality, free speech, privacy and affordable internet access were all under attack in 2017. But the unprecedented public outcry we helped ignite meant that anytime the FCC and Congress tried to violate people’s rights, it came with a political price.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn
FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, Dec. 14 Wake-Up Call Rally for Net Neutrality at the FCC
Maria Merkulova


events organized by Team Internet volunteers, including 700 protests in all 50 states plus D.C. — in a single day.

Rally for Net Neutrality
May 18 Rally for Net Neutrality at the FCC
Maria Merkulova


people submitted comments to the FCC on Net Neutrality — the most received by any federal agency ever.


people emailed Congress on July’s Internet-Wide Day of Action.


people called Congress in support of Net Neutrality over Thanksgiving — right after the FCC announced it would move forward with a vote in December.

Fighting for Net Neutrality

Free Press and our allies sparked a massive, year-long public backlash to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to destroy Net Neutrality. People rose up online and in the streets, and flooded congressional offices with calls, emails and meetings.

On Dec. 14, the FCC voted to repeal the agency’s strong, existing Net Neutrality rules — but the fight is far from over. Net Neutrality has entered the mainstream, and politicians are paying attention. Momentum to reverse the FCC’s decision is building in Congress, and the issue will likely be in play during the midterm elections. In January 2018, Free Press was among the very first to sue the agency over its unfounded attack on the open internet.

Learn more

Net Neutrality Activists in Action

Defending Lifeline

In September, Free Press Deputy Director and Senior Counsel Jessica González testified before Congress to defend the Lifeline program.

Protecting Privacy

In March, Congress voted to rollback the FCC’s strong broadband-privacy rules that required internet service providers to get customers' consent before they surveil, sell or collect their personal digital data. Free Press activists had fought hard to secure these protections in 2016, and delivered tens of thousands of petitions to Congress protesting Pai’s plan. In the final 48 hours before the vote, 20,000 people called their representatives.

There is not one person, not one voter of any political stripe anywhere in America, who asked for this.

— Comedian Stephen Colbert

Ending Surveillance

Color of Survellance presentation slide

In 2017, we focused on how government surveillance impacts people of color, immigrants and others whose civil rights and civil liberties are most vulnerable to government overreach. Free Press closely monitored key issues in Congress and worked to bring diverse, grassroots voices into surveillance debates.

Supporting Protesters

Last summer, the Justice Department issued a sweeping warrant to collect personal information on everyone who visited an anti-Trump website. The Justice Department's goal: to get information on 200 people who were arrested and charged with federal crimes for protesting Donald Trump’s inauguration. We mobilized people to fight back.

We Advocated for People-Driven Journalism

Our News Voices project, which launched in New Jersey in 2015 and expanded to North Carolina in 2017, brings residents and reporters together in dialogue to transform local news and elevate the voices of everyday people.

In 2017 in New Jersey, we developed landmark legislation that could bring millions of dollars in new investment to local news gathering and civic technology. In North Carolina, we connected activists and journalists around crucial issues like economic inequality. Nationwide, we pushed public broadcasters to reinvest hundreds of millions earned in revenues from an FCC spectrum auction in local news and information needs.

News Voices forum, Charlotte, NC
News Voices forum, Charlotte, NC
Jonathan Cooper

[News Voices] is exciting and innovative. It’s the kind of thinking our country needs as we figure out the future of journalism

Editor & Publisher
Civic Info Bill Lobby Day, Trenton, NJ
Civic Info Bill Lobby Day, Trenton, NJ
Free Press/Free Press Action Fund

Are more, and more diverse, notebook-carrying, smartphone-bearing digital and yes, print, journalists of all sorts — students, citizens, full-time professionals — needed? And could a New Jersey Civic Information Consortium help meet that need? Absolutely!

Philadelphia Inquirer

News Voices: New Jersey

In the Garden State, we campaigned to pass legislation that would allocate tens of millions from the sale of the state’s public television stations to create a Civic Information Consortium and invest in projects to strengthen local news coverage, community information, and civic engagement. To build public support for the idea, we organized a series of 11 public meetings around the state. Hundreds of people attended the sessions to talk about local information sources and to offer ideas for projects they’d like the consortium to support.

In a major milestone, the “Civic Info Bill” was introduced on June 1, with 15 co-sponsors, including the majority leaders in the state Assembly and Senate. The bill didn’t reach a vote, but it will be reintroduced in 2018.

We also worked to develop journalism projects in local communities. For example, we launched an award-winning collaboration with NJ Spark at Rutgers University called “37 Voices,” where student journalists partnered with community organizations to cover what it means to be poor in New Jersey and unpack prevailing media narratives about poverty.

News Voices forum, Charlotte, NC
News Voices forum, Charlotte, NC
Jonathan Cooper

Journalists walk away from our public forums with stories they can immediately go out and report. Community members walk away realizing the stories they’ve unknowingly been sitting on.


News Voices: North Carolina

Bringing together people who care about journalism was at the heart of our work in North Carolina. In 2017, we held launch parties in Charlotte and Durham, organized member calls, and held a series of small-group conversations to discuss people’s roles in making local news. Our showcase event in Charlotte at Johnson C. Smith University focused on journalism’s role in addressing economic inequality.

Through these convenings, we’re fostering networks of community activists, journalists, Free Press members and many others in key locations across the state. The trust and community we’re building among residents and journalists will form the foundation for reinventing journalism in North Carolina.

News Voices in Action

Protecting Public Media

Boxes with petitions and “Save PBS” stickers.

Early in 2017, Trump proposed to zero-out federal funding for public media.

Free Press and our allies hit back fast.

Standing Up for Press Freedom

When the FCC chairman refused to speak out after President Trump threatened broadcasters for news coverage he disliked (after failing to renounce Trump’s earlier attack on the press as an “enemy of the people”), Free Press organized a protest letter from press-freedom groups and former FCC leaders.

We Challenged the FCC’s Big-Media Giveaway

In 2017, Free Press led the charge to derail the dangerous Sinclair-Tribune merger and oppose the FCC’s plans to lift longstanding media ownership limits.

The Sinclair Broadcast Group’s scheme to buy Tribune Media would let a company that regularly broadcasts right-wing, racist and Islamophobic rhetoric reach a whopping 72 percent of homes in the United States. Free Press is working to expose Sinclair’s shady history, and we filed a formal challenge to the deal at the FCC.

Say No to Trump TV graphic


people signed a petition to stop the Sinclair-Tribune merger.

Activists protesting the Sinclair merger outside the FCC
Activists protesting the Sinclair merger outside the FCC
Free Press/Free Press Action Fund

The FCC is gaming the rules to directly benefit Sinclair,” says Craig Aaron, the president of the public interest group Free Press.

Mother Jones

Fighting Media Consolidation

Chairman Pai fast-tracked a plan to erase long-standing media ownership rules in ways that directly benefit Sinclair and pave the way for its merger with Tribune — with zero public input. Next, he’s trying to eliminate the national cap that’s supposed to keep companies like Sinclair and Fox from reaching more than 39 percent of the national audience.

Free Press filed a lawsuit challenging the FCC’s rule changes and continues to mount public pressure on the FCC and Congress to keep ownership limits on the books.

About Free Press

Free Press staff
Timothy Karr

Our Team* as of 2018

  • Craig Aaron
    President and CEO
  • Alicia Bell
  • Alison Brzenchek
    Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow
  • Candace Clement
    Campaign Director
  • Dutch Cosmian
    Digital Director
  • Mary Alice Crim
    Field Director
  • Carrie Cuthbert
    Development Director
  • Dana Floberg
    Policy Analyst
  • Brandon Forester
  • Heather Franklin
    C. Edwin Baker Fellow
  • Nicole Fritz
    Finance Manager
  • Sandra Fulton
    Government Relations Director
  • Jessica J. González
    Deputy Director and Senior Counsel
  • Timothy Karr
    Senior Director of Strategy and Communications
  • Amy Kroin
  • Gaurav Laroia
    Policy Counsel
  • Kimberly Longey
    Chief Operating Officer
  • Sara Longsmith
    Foundation Relations Manager
  • Lucia Martinez
    Digital Campaigner
  • Amy Martyn
    Administrative Director
  • Fiona Morgan
    Journalism Program Director
  • Yesenia Perez-Algarin
    Associate Development Director
  • Misty Perez Truedson
    Managing Director
  • O’neil Pryce
    Special Assistant to the President and CEO
  • Mike Rispoli
    News Voices Director
  • James L. Thompson
  • Joseph Torres
    Senior Director of Strategy and Engagement
  • S. Derek Turner
    Research Director
  • Stefan Ward-Wheten
    Office Manager
  • Collette Watson
    Digital Communications Manager
  • Matt Wood
    Policy Director

Board of Directors

  • Craig Aaron
    President and CEO
  • Alvaro Bedoya
    Executive Director, Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology
  • Michael Copps
    Former FCC Commissioner
  • Olga M. Davidson
    Chair, Ilex Foundation
  • Victor Pickard
    Professor, University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication
  • Liza Pike
    New Media Mentors Project Director
  • Ben Scott, Chair
    Senior Advisor, New America’s Open Technology Institute

Free Press by the Numbers

Our Supporters

Free Press and Free Press Action Fund are supported by gifts and grants from individuals, private foundations and public charities. Neither organization accepts funding from business, government or political parties.

Financial Year in Review

Note: 2017 audited financial information will be published in April 2018.