The Free Press
CICJ Mission Statement
The Columbus Institute for Contemporary Journalism provides progressive activist news, political analysis, and social issue commentary through freepress.org, CICJ Books, alternative media projects and sponsorship of community events promoting journalism and social justice.
CICJ Program Services
The Columbus Institute for Contemporary Journalism (CICJ) currently publishes the Free Press newspaper, Free Press Express broadsheet, the website freepress.org, books, and other educational materials. The CICJ sponsors journalistic activities such as community radio, video production, the local film festival, film screenings, speakers, conferences, educational workshops, election protection, and other special events. The CICJ partners with local activist organizations, holds monthly community salons, and an annual awards dinner to honor community activists. The CICJ also acts as a fiscal agent for other nonprofit organizations and individuals.
The original Columbus Free Press grew out of the anti-war movement on the campus of Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio in October 1970. Inspired by the activism against the Vietnam War and the senseless killings at Kent State, the underground paper was published for a 25-year tumultuous history (1970-1995). Like other underground alternative publications around the country, the Free Press went through many changes through the years. It served as the voice of the students in the early 70's, reporting on social justice issues such as sexism, racism, peace activism, corporate misdeeds, politics and the counterculture. Constantly struggling to survive on a shoestring budget, it encountered opposition from without and within. Internal ideological struggles were compounded, for example, when police arrested four of the editors in 1971 for "inciting riot."
The Free Press founders grew older, less militant, got jobs but the paper survived. Changing faces on the editorial staff show different politics and policies through the years. The Columbus Institute for Contemporary Journalism 501(c)3 nonprofit organization was founded in 1986 as the sponsor of the Free Press newspaper.
Finally, after floundering through the Reagan-Bush '80's and hampered by a lack of an activist movement in the city, the Free Press faced so much competition in the "alternative" newspaper marketplace in Columbus that revenues dried up. It published its 25th Anniversary issue in October 1995, only with dollars donated from then-Columbus Guardian publisher Ron Williams; and ceased publication temporarily. The Free Press was resurrected as a website in early 1996 courtesy of longtime volunteer and activist Tim Wagner. The website developed during the next two years and the printed publication emerged as a quarterly journal in the Winter of 1998. A new Board of Directors formed and gradually the Free Press is back up and running in Central Ohio.
The Free Press now honors community activists annually with a "Libby" Award for Community Activism, named for a former Free Press editor, Libby Gregory, who lost her life in 1991 in an airplane accident. In 1998, a Selma Walker Award for lifetime achievement in Human Rights activism was added in honor of Selma Walker, the founder of the local Native American Indian Center.
The CICJ is a member of Community Shares of Mid Ohio, earning a small amount of funds through workplace campaigns. Look for the Free Press/Democratic Socialists of Central Ohio wine booth at the Community Festival each year during the last weekend in June. The Free Press is dependent on subscriptions, donations and fund-raising events to stay alive.
Believing that there's still a place for community-based journalism, the struggle moves forward, awaiting the rise of the next left mass movement that's willing to speak truth to power.
Editor & Publisher | Bob Fitrakis
Managing Editor | Suzanne Patzer
Senior Editor | Harvey Wasserman