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MLRC to Honor Barbara Wall with Brennan Award at Annual Dinner


The MLRC is proud to announce that at its annual dinner on November 10 it will bestow its highest honor, the William J. Brennan, Jr. Defense of Freedom Award, on Barbara Wall. The crystal award she will receive at the dinner is inscribed “For her inspirational leadership in defending a free press, her exceptional strategic and practical skills as a First Amendment lawyer, and her steadfast promotion and support of women in the media bar.” Barbara was the leading First Amendment and newsroom lawyer at USA Today and the Gannett Co. for decades, ultimately serving as its Chief Legal Officer. She then went on to become the company’s COO before retiring in January 2020 and being appointed to the company’s Board of Directors.

The William J. Brennan, Jr. Defense of Freedom Award was established to honor those whose actions have advanced the cause of freedom of expression. The award serves as a symbol and celebration of the principles of the First Amendment. Barbara is the first woman to receive the award singularly. Maria Ressa, last week named winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, received the award along with Hatice Cengiz (columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s widow) in 2019 as a representatives and symbols of besieged journalists abroad, and Katharine Graham received the award in 1996 in tandem with Arthur “Punch” Sulzberger on the 25th anniversary of the Pentagon Papers case. Other winners of the Award include Daniel Ellsberg, Anthony Lewis, Ted Turner, Floyd Abrams, Fred Friendly and Justices Blackmun and Brennan.

A number of organizations have already ordered full page ads in it to congratulate Barbara for her Award in our dinner program and on screen for those viewing the event remotely. If you are interested in running an ad for your firm or company, please contact Liz Zimmermann at To buy a ticket for the Dinner (in-person or streaming), click here.