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‘Voices for a Free Press’ public event at World Peace Bell draws comments from variety of speakers

Staff Report

The ‘Voices for a Free Press’ event at the World Peace Bell in Newport attracted some distinguished speakers and advocates for an independent press as crucial to democracy.

Scholars and journalists, businessmen, citizens, students, former journalists, advocates, lawyers and public officials joined in the celebration, enjoying conversation and refreshments at the Southbank Partners headquarters, some of them braving the cold weather to speak outside by the bell.

The bell rang out at 4 p.m., 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.

The event was part of an international speak-out sponsored by PEN America, a nonprofit organization that advocates free expression worldwide.

The NKyTribune joined PEN to host the NKY event to call attention to the importance of the free press and the forces at work against it worldwide.

Turkeyfoot Middle School student Anna Clabes, 12, was the youngest of the activist voices. She recited the Preamble to the Constitution and the First Amendment to set the stage for the speakers.

The mayors of Covington and Newport, Joe Meyer and Jerry Peluso, each gave thoughtful remarks about the importance of the press to government transparency and function — even though they may not always like the questions or the result.

Historian Dr. Ray Hebert of Thomas More University spoke of the importance of free expression, ethics, and religious liberty.

Mike Farrell, a Latonia native and director of the UK School of Journalism and Media and of the Scripps Howard First Amendment Center, spoke about the history of the First Amendment and the Brandeis decision that solidified the law. He shared his experiences as an editor and now a teacher.

Ginnie McCabe represented the Society of Professional Journalists in a fun reading of newspaper slogans.

Attorney Karen Zerhusen Kruer read a moving piece by PEN’s Suzanne Hossel on “Journalists are routinely murdered around the world. . .”

Mark Neikirk, director of the Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement and a former journalist.

Brent Cooper of the NKY Chamber of Commerce spoke of NKY’s need for more press coverage and the press’ role in building community.

A well-prepared group from Northern Kentucky University teamed up for an extraordinary presentation. Informatics Dean Kevin Kirby started with remarks and a poem about freedom in Myanmar, where he had recently traveled.

Student Noel Waltz read Jamal Khoshoggi’s last column before his tragic and brutal death.

Student Jarrett Lopez, a political science major, made comments and did selected readings on the importance of a free press to a free society.

Student Andrew Weidner read and reflected on the Zenger case.

Student Travis Roy read from Voltaire.

Director of the Scripps Center on Civic Engagement Mark Neikirk, a former journalist, read and commented on excerpts from a National Review article on James Madisons’ Lesson Free Speech. Neikirk shared his own poignant views on free press issues.

Mark Hansel, managing editor of the NKyTribune, shared PEN’s story about its lawsuit against the president for using his presidential powers to punish and silence journalists and news outlets who displease him.

Other speakers read selected readings provided by PEN America and the NKyTribune.

Jack Moreland of Southbank Partners hosted the speakers and public at the headquarters of the organization.

“We were gratified by the engagement of the speakers and the thoughtful comments about the role and responsibilities of a free press — and of free citizens as well,” said Judy Clabes, editor and publisher of the NKyTribune. “We look forward to providing more public events like this.”

Photos by Jacob Clabes, the NKyTribune:

Mike Farrell, director of the UK School of Journalism and Media and of the Scripps Howard First Amendment Center at UK

Newport Mayor Jerry Peluso

Dr. Ray Hebert, Thomas More University, director of the Institute for Religious Liberty

Covington Mayor Joe Meyer

Karen Zerhusen Kruer

Dean of NKU College of Informatics Kevin Kirby

NKY Chamber CEO Brent Cooper

NKyTribune Managing Editor Mark Hansel

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