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, the websites freepress.org and columbusfreepress.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. Since 2000, the CICJ's election integrity activities have helped expose the non-transparency of our election systems and the fraud in the 2000, 2004 and subsequent elections. The CICJ also acts as a fiscal agent for other nonprofit organizations and individuals.

The CICJ is managed by an all-volunteer nonprofit board and most of the work is done by volunteers.

History:
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 70s, 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."

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 and ceased publication temporarily. The Free Press was resurrected as one of the first independent progressive newspapers to have a website (freepress.org) 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 was back up and running in Central Ohio.

The CICJ started the book publishing company CICJ Books in 2003, publishing books by Editor Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman as well as other local writers. 

After the 2004 presidential election, Fitrakis and Wasserman became internationally known for their investigations into the theft of that election in Ohio. The Free Press and freepress.org led the new "election integrity" movement nationwide including in-depth investigatory work at Boards of Elections, online reports, Congressional testimonies, conferences, inclusion in many independent documentaries, and lawsuits. 

After going from monthly, to every other month, to quarterly, to annually, the Free Press began publishing a 2-sided montly broadsheet in 2011 during the Occupy Columbus period. In 2013, an external grant allowed the Free Press to start a commercial venture with a weekly localized Free Press publication put out by the Free Press Now LLC. In 2017, the LLC folded and the Free Press again became a nonprofit monthly publication operated by  volunteer staff and board.

The Free Press 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 Free Press has been partnering with Columbus Democratic Socialists as they often join the ceremony to award local activists with their Debs-Thomas-Harrington award.

Staying Alive:
The CICJ is a member of Community Shares of Mid Ohio, earning a small amount of funds through workplace campaigns. The Free Press and the Columbus Democratic Socialists wine booth rasies funds at the Community Festival each year during the last weekend in June. The Free Press is dependent on grants, 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.

THE VOLUNTEER STAFF:
Editor & Publisher: Bob Fitrakis
Senior Editor: Harvey Wasserman
Associate Editor: Suzanne Patzer

Managing Editor: Michael Alwood
freepress.org Editor: Pete Johnson

Free Press/freepress.org

1021 E. Broad St.

Columbus Ohio 43205

614-253-2571

Free Press Facebook page

Free Press Twitter

Free Press' sister website with local Central Ohio news: columbusfreepress.com