MEXICO CITY, MEXICO (October 17, 2016) – Matthew R. Sanders*, of Deseret Digital Media, Salt Lake City, Utah, today assumed the Presidency of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) until 2017 with an emotional message that he shared with the participants at the organization's 72nd General Assembly, which was held in this city.
Here are his remarks:
Light of Liberty
Introduction and thank you
It is with humility and gratitude that I approach the responsibility to serve as the President of SIP for the 2016-2017 term. I have been frankly overwhelmed by the kindness and welcome you've shown me, to my family, my company and now the trust you've placed in me to help carry on the noble work of this organization.
I'd also like to add my thanks to our host committee at this remarkable General Assembly in Mexico City, and extend my friendship and welcome to OEM. After such an experience, I'm even more motivated to make Salt Lake City an unforgettable assembly. We have already begun preparing and are eager to welcome you next October our wonderful city, our extraordinarily beautiful state and the warm hearts of our people. You and your families are cordially invited! For October 27-30 next year, Salt Lake City will be your home.
In preparation for this role, I studied the history of SIP and the opening speeches of past presidents. As relatively new to SIP, my admiration and appreciation deepened for the organization and for those who have fought nobly for freedom of expression. I have heard some of your stories. Thank you for your courage.
Please allow me a moment introduce myself. I come from a family who helped settle the western frontier of the United States. They were were part of a dramatic Christian religious movement of people commonly known as Mormons who gathered to the Rocky Mountains from around the world. One of those who came to Utah was my great-great-grandfather Isaac John Wardle. Isaac began working underground in the famous central England coal mines at age 7. While in the mines, he would have carried something like this coal oil lamp to provide a bit of light in a dark and dusty place. We have learned that he typically entered the mines before dawn and left after dark, only seeing the sun on Sundays when he attended the Ravenstone parish of the Church of England with his family. It nearly breaks my heart to think of my grandfather living his early years in such an oppressive environment. I acquired this replica lamp in England last summer with my family at the very mine where he had worked and I now keep it on my office desk. For some, this lamp may be a reminder of difficult times. For me, it reminds me of the light of liberty.
Let me explain. At age 17 Isaac discovered a new faith, but the church of England made it very uncomfortable to belong to another church, and his career was nearly pre-determined. So, at age 18 he followed his heart by sailing to Boston, then by train to Nebraska, finally walking the remaining 1000 miles on foot in terrible weather to Utah to have the freedom to believe and live as he determined.
After arriving, Isaac helped carve a civilization out of desert and mountain rock, digging canals to water parched ground to grow crops for people gathering to Utah. He and others helped found communities, churches and schools – which you'll see when you come to Utah. Isaac left England illiterate but eventually learned to read, and eventually became a teacher. His story inspires me. At a young age, in very severe circumstances, a light came on within him and he struck out on an extraordinary journey led by his faith and belief that he was meant to be free. His courage has blessed many generations of his family. But Isaac's unbounded desire to follow his light of liberty is not unique. You are that way. I am that way.
As a boy in the mountain valleys of Idaho, my parents also cultivated in me and in my 5 other siblings a deep sense of patriotism and love for God, for freedom and for their protection by the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
I lived in a remote setting, but my world-view was remarkably broad. I remember distinctly reading a small book called, "The Travels of Marco Polo." From that point on world geography, cultures and affairs and the struggle for liberty enthralled me. As a teen, I studied the great thinkers of liberty, equality, self-government and individual rights like Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Jefferson and Hobbes. These voices of the Enlightenment add fuel to the light of liberty in my heart.
My early interests, world affairs and liberty, came together as I read our daily newspaper, the Idaho Statesman about battles for freedom being fought around the world: the reports of brave Afghan freedom fighters standing up to the "evil empire" of the Soviet union, South Africa ripped apart by Apartheid, and seemingly endless war in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. The wrenching conflicts around the globe between liberty and self-government and oppressive authoritarianism paraded past me. I read about the war on drugs and the FARC in Colombia, the dirty war in Argentina and the dictatorship of Pinochet. They were mesmerizing, confusing, tangled conflicts that remain very difficult to sort out and continue to send ripples of painful memories through the generations. These accounts were such a contrast to life in Idaho. But they were very, very real to you and your families.
Yet, even as a boy in Idaho these stories stirred within me a sense of solidarity with my broader family of humanity across the globe. Now, so many years later, I've had the privilege of becoming acquainted with you who have fought on the front lines for individual liberties, many times against great odds and powers. I have grown to deeply admire the mission and the heritage of SIP and am at times awestruck at the courageous stance its members have taken against forces determined to corrupt vital institutions of society, and to forcibly extract resources and crush individual liberties.
The light of liberty burns within each human heart, whether in a rural valley in Idaho or the Valle de Chota in Ecuador, we are all freedom seekers. In SIP, we call it freedom of expression. I appreciated the remarks by Ricardo Salinas of TV Aztec on Saturday who recommended that we expand our definition of freedom of expression. I agree. By expanding our definition, we will be far more sympathetic to and aware of the needs of our audience. I love the purpose of the Newseum, an inspiring museum dedicated to our industry, that, "promotes, explains and defends free expression and the five freedoms of the First Amendment: religion, speech, press, assembly and petition."
From my perspective, we should take particular care the first three freedoms, which connect so deeply with our mission. Let me treat quickly treat each from the most expansive to the most personal:
First, the right to express oneself through print, broadcast and now digital means. What we define as press and mass media today is very different than the framers of the constitution may have seen, but the protections for individual journalists are clearly protected in a special way as a human right. Journalists play a critical role in taking risks with their right to free speech to add light and truth to the public consciousness. Such action often elicits an opposite reaction. But free press is vital for the light of liberty.
Second, freedom of speech. Democracy requires free and open debate and individual speech in the public square must be protected. With the rise of the political correctness dogma, free speech and resulting thought are being censored and regulated by a few. This cannot be. I remember at Harvard having experiences where classmates and professors would try shout down or shut down certain discussions on the basis of political correctness. Voices, particularly among our youth who are just discovering their own, must not be censored and or induced to self-censorship. Political correctness dims the light of liberty.
Third, the freedom of religion. The right to believe and practice what we hold sacred is at the heart of the light of liberty is part of fabric of our hearts, homes and communities. Yet, there are forces at work who would see this form of expression banished from the public square. This is not only a protected form of expression, but religious belief and practice has powerful positive influence on a self-governing society. In the First Meeting of Lawmakers and Inter-religious councils of Mexico held in the Chamber of Deputies, Mexico City, noted religious leader and legal scholar, Elder Dallin Oaks said "Religion is important in global security, conflict resolution, economic development, humanitarian aid, environmental protection and other areas."
Taken to their extreme, any of these freedoms can encroach on another's rights in a pluralistic society. In the Americas, where democracy has been most broadly adopted, self-governance, compromise and civility have been shown as far superior solutions than government or other interference into these liberties.
For the past 6 years I have had the privilege of working for Deseret Digital Media, the digital only arm of a media group that includes print, radio, book publishing and television media enterprises. Our mission is to, "to be trusted voices of light and truth reaching hundreds of millions worldwide." We have seen our greatest growth when we focus on stories that affect the heart and home, which include faith, marriage, parenting and family. In these few years, our unique visitors have grown from 5 to 30 million, our page views now exceed 500 million and our Facebook channels now reach more than 400 million people each month. Alongside our growth in audience, we've had to build new, digitally focused business models.
So, as the first digital president of IAPA, you'll hear a lot about the digital and organizational change necessary to thrive in the mobile and social environment. As a SIP member, you will be connected to the best thinking and best solutions available to help you transform your enterprise.
For example, we just announced a unique alliance with Google to extend the Project Shield Denial of Service protection to our members at no cost, to help in defense the rising threat of cyber attacks. I applaud the IAPA board in this initiative, and believe it signals an adjustment of course. For just as we need to rework our businesses for the new reality, you will see IAPA pursue new, innovative ways to achieve our mission. You will see the Press Institute and Internet Committee develop valuable digital media training in assemblies, regional meetings and webinars. We are already in discussions with other solution providers that can be helpful in our path to digital success.
While we pursue the new we must also core offering of trusted, professional, fearless and creative storytelling into the new world of digital media. To do so, we will need to recruit and mentor a younger, digital savvy workforce, pursue new marketing relationships and explore new ways of partnering.
Leadership and transformation
I believe we have the leadership who can help us in the transition I would like to commend SIP's Executive Director Ricardo Trotti and his dedicated, able staff for the leadership and efficiency. I've taken the wise advice of Pierre Manigault and have invited the commission presidents to continue their good work for the next year. I'm thankful for gracious willingness to serve the IAPA on all our behalf in these roles. They are as follows:
COMITTEES and CHAIRS:
Chapultepec: José Roberto Dutriz, La Prensa Gráfica, El Salvador
Impunity: Juan Francisco Ealy Ortiz, El Universal, Mexico
Awards: Marcela Noble Herrera, La Razón, Argentina
Finance & Audit: Hugo Holmann, La Prensa, Nicaragua
Legal: Gonzalo Zegarra, Semana Económica, Peru
Membership: Ed McCullough, Associated Press, USA
Strategic Development & Communications: María Elvira Domínguez, El País, Colombia
Nominations: Pierre Manigault, Evening Post Industries, USA
Fundraising & Resources: Miguel H. Otero, El Nacional, Venezuela
Internet: Ernesto Kraiselburd, El Día, Argentina
Future Sites: Lourdes de Obaldía, La Prensa, Panama
Freedom of the Press & Information: Roberto Rock, La Silla Rota, Mexico City, Mexico
Please allow me a moment to honor, our colleague and friend, Claudio Paolillo, who has been a fierce and consistent proponent of personal liberty and the preservation of a free press. We love you Claudio and our thoughts and prayers are with you as you fight this most difficult battle of your life. We wish you a miraculous and speedy recovery and are confident that if anyone can overcome this, it is you.
In his stead, I've asked Roberto Rock, to lead the Freedom of the Press and Information Committee. After a discussion with Roberto about his plans, I am deeply confident in his ability and commitment to serve as a vanguard in our defense of liberty from governments, institutions and other actors.
We need to reenergize the world of media that has been shocked by the twin challenges of digital disruption and the rise of autocratic. I would encourage each of us to take up the cause of our most recent president, Pierre Manigault, to reach out to like-minded media companies, businesses, and colleagues to join us. We must also invite the younger, globally and cause-minded generation drawn by the light of liberty to labor at our sides. They are clever, know how to organize people, and have high aspirations. We must make IAPA a place that welcomes, empowers and defends the rising generation of journalists and digital media leaders eager to carry the light of liberty.
When one candle flame is joined with another, the combined flame is brighter and stronger. When the light of liberty recedes our way becomes darker and less sure. There is something about our hemisphere. When freedom of expression is violated in the Americas, we take it personally. I did as a boy in Idaho. So do you. We at IAPA are the keepers and defenders of the flame that should burn in every heart and home. That flame will chase away the oppression of individual freedoms in any form and stand as a beacon in the darkening clouds of autocracy, until the power of self-government is returned to the hands of citizens in our hemisphere, the rightful heirs to the light of liberty.
*Mr. Sanders has led digital media innovations at DDM for 6 years, including a network of contributors from 50 states and 50 countries who have generated more than 75 thousand articles and more than a billion page views via DDM websites. He also oversees an expanding network of publisher partnerships who subscribe to the DDM BrandForge content and native advertising service. Sanders has led or advised organizational transformations while working for RAND Corporation, Marketing and Planning Systems, Forrester Research and BYU-Idaho. Past clients have included Fortune 500 companies like UPS, Sears, IBM, Pfizer and Mitsui. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Honors Economics at Brigham Young University and a Master's in Public Policy from Harvard University. He studied in Paris, France, Washington, D.C. and in Jerusalem, Israel. Sanders speaks fluent Spanish, and has worked, studied, or traveled in 35 countries. He enjoys reading, hiking, skiing, college sports, and serving in his local community. Matt has also been deeply involved in humanitarian relief and student mentoring efforts in the United States, Mexico and Cambodia. He and his wife, the former Jennifer Spencer, are the parents of four children.
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org.