Message from CEO
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.
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.
We Mobilized Millions
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.
events organized by Team Internet volunteers, including 700 protests in all 50 states plus D.C. — in a single day.
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.
Net Neutrality Activists in Action
In September, Free Press Deputy Director and Senior Counsel Jessica González testified before Congress to defend the Lifeline program.
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.
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.
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] is exciting and innovative. It’s the kind of thinking our country needs as we figure out the future of journalism
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!
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.
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
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.
people signed a petition to stop the Sinclair-Tribune merger.
The FCC is gaming the rules to directly benefit Sinclair,” says Craig Aaron, the president of the public interest group Free Press.
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
Our Team* as of 2018
Craig AaronPresident and CEO
Alison BrzenchekMellon/ACLS Public Fellow
Candace ClementCampaign Director
Dutch CosmianDigital Director
Mary Alice CrimField Director
Carrie CuthbertDevelopment Director
Dana FlobergPolicy Analyst
Heather FranklinC. Edwin Baker Fellow
Nicole FritzFinance Manager
Sandra FultonGovernment Relations Director
Jessica J. GonzálezDeputy Director and Senior Counsel
Timothy KarrSenior Director of Strategy and Communications
Gaurav LaroiaPolicy Counsel
Kimberly LongeyChief Operating Officer
Sara LongsmithFoundation Relations Manager
Lucia MartinezDigital Campaigner
Amy MartynAdministrative Director
Fiona MorganJournalism Program Director
Yesenia Perez-AlgarinAssociate Development Director
Misty Perez TruedsonManaging Director
O’neil PryceSpecial Assistant to the President and CEO
Mike RispoliNews Voices Director
James L. ThompsonOrganizer
Joseph TorresSenior Director of Strategy and Engagement
S. Derek TurnerResearch Director
Stefan Ward-WhetenOffice Manager
Collette WatsonDigital Communications Manager
Matt WoodPolicy Director
Board of Directors
Craig AaronPresident and CEO
Alvaro BedoyaExecutive Director, Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology
Michael CoppsFormer FCC Commissioner
Olga M. DavidsonChair, Ilex Foundation
Victor PickardProfessor, University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication
Liza PikeNew Media Mentors Project Director
Ben Scott, ChairSenior Advisor, New America’s Open Technology Institute
Free Press by the Numbers
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.