Martha Minow, 300th Anniversary University Professor at Harvard and former dean of Harvard Law School, was honored with a Career Achievement Award by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. The accolade recognizes an individual with a long history of upholding the value of freedom of the press throughout their career. Minow accepted the award at a gala ceremony held in New York City on October 11.
Minow was one of seven leaders in the news media and legal fields whose work was honored by the Reporters Committee this year. Harvard Law School alumna Ashton R. Lattimore ’13, editor-in-chief of Prism, was recognized with the 2023 Freedom of the Press Rising Star Award.
Stephen J. Adler, chair of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said in a release announcing the winners: “The Freedom of the Press Awards represent the important roles of both journalism and the law in fostering an informed democracy. We’re proud to recognize these leaders in both fields; they deeply understand how essential it is to work together — whether it’s across newsrooms or across industries — to uphold the values of a free press.”
In a tribute video that premiered at the event, Minow was praised as “a great legal mind” and an “intellectual adventurer,” whose commitment to press freedom and whose deep engagement with a wide range of intellectual interests — spanning issues of equality, human rights, constitutional law, and democracy — have defined her career.
John Palfrey ’01, president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, said: “Over many years and in many ways Martha Minow has issued a clarion call for press freedom and for the importance of local news.”
“In many respects [public media] is in her DNA,” said Ann Fudge, chair of WGBH Board of Trustees, noting that Minow is the daughter of the late Newton Minow, who chaired the Federal Communications Commission under President John F. Kennedy and who was the inspiration for Public Broadcasting. “It’s how she sees the world and the importance of media in so far as the strength of our democracy.”
Minow has taught since 1981 at Harvard Law School, where she served as dean from 2009 to 2017. An expert in human rights and advocacy for members of racial and religious minorities and for women, children, and persons with disabilities, she also writes and teaches about media and technology, democracy, privatization, military justice, and ethnic and religious conflict.
She is the author of several books, including “When Should Law Forgive?” (2019) and. “In Brown’s Wake: Legacies of America’s Constitutional Landmark” (2010).
In her most recent book, “Saving the News: Why the Constitution Calls for Government Action to Preserve the Freedom of Speech,” published in 2021, Minow assesses the new media landscape, focusing on government’s responsibilities for upholding and supporting the free press—an obligation enshrined in the Constitution.
In an interview in the Harvard Law Bulletin, Minow said she was inspired to write on the topic after the 2016 election, which highlighted the problems of disinformation, misinformation, and information overload. As a constitutional law professor, she said: “I’m very aware of the ways in which the assumptions behind the Constitution are not always supported by the country that we’ve created. And one of those presuppositions is, of course, the existence and durability of a vital media news capacity.”
At Harvard Law School, Minow has taught courses on civil procedure, constitutional law, fairness and privacy, family law, international criminal justice, jurisprudence, law and education, and nonprofit organizations, as well as public law workshop.
Minow serves on numerous boards, including as board chair of the MacArthur Foundation, co-chair of the access to justice project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the board of trustees of public media GBH.
Lattimore, who focuses her work on the intersection of race, culture, and law, was recognized with the Reporters Committee’s Rising Star Award, which honors an up-and-coming journalist, media lawyer, or organization who has already made great strides in defending freedom of the press or who has conquered significant roadblocks in the course of telling an important story. In 2022, Lattimore reported on draft anti-abortion legislation that had the potential to criminalize news reporting on abortion. Her reporting was the foundation for an open letter to the United States Department of Justice advocating for press freedom, signed by a coalition of more than two dozen news organizations. Lattimore is also the author of a forthcoming debut novel “All We Were Promised,”a work of historical fiction centered on Black women and abolition in nineteenth century Philadelphia.