The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is welcoming three new attorneys to its Local Legal Initiative in the latest expansion of its pro bono legal support for local enterprise and investigative reporting. Paula Knudsen Burke has joined the Reporters Committee as the Local Legal Initiative attorney based in Pennsylvania and Ellen Osoinach has joined as the Local Legal Initiative attorney based in Oregon. In September, Rachael Johnson will begin working as the Local Legal Initiative attorney for Colorado.
Launched in 2019 and funded with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Reporters Committee’s Local Legal Initiative provides targeted, pro bono legal support to help local journalists and news organizations defend their rights to gather and report the news, gain access to public records and court proceedings, and hold state and local government agencies and officials accountable.
“We’re thrilled to have Paula, Ellen and Rachael join the Reporters Committee, and to continue to expand the legal support we provide to local journalists,” said Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “Their combined decades of experience working in and outside of newsrooms to improve transparency and government accountability will only strengthen our ability to provide legal resources and services to reporters pursuing critical local journalism in Pennsylvania, Oregon and Colorado.”
Knudsen Burke has been a licensed Pennsylvania attorney for almost two decades and joins the Reporters Committee from LNP Media Group, Inc., where she previously led the investigations and enterprise team as an editor. She also helped launch The Caucus, a watchdog publication covering state government and politics in Pennsylvania, and was the director of government affairs at the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, where she advocated for improvements to the state’s public records and meetings laws.
Osoinach has spent her entire legal career in Oregon and brings more than 15 years of direct litigation experience to the Reporters Committee. She began as a county prosecutor and most recently worked as a senior deputy attorney for the City of Portland, handling a variety of complex litigation, including police reform and public records appeals. Osoinach has twice served the Oregon Legislature as committee counsel, most recently in the 2019 session. She has also coached law students in moot court as an adjunct professor at Lewis and Clark Law School.
Johnson joins the Reporters Committee with more than a decade of experience in both journalism and media law, most recently as a staff attorney for Hollingsworth LLP, where she specialized in complex litigation matters. Previously, she directed the review of documents sought through Freedom of Information Act requests at the Natural Resources Defense Council, and served as a senior writer and creative communications advisor to U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. Johnson has also worked as a journalist, editor, and producer, as well as represented pro bono media clients for the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society’s Online Media Legal Network.
Knudsen Burke, Osoinach and Johnson join Paul McAdoo, who began working as Tennessee’s Local Legal Initiative attorney earlier this year. The program will also add an attorney based in Oklahoma in 2020.
“The challenges facing newsrooms in Pennsylvania, Oregon and Colorado that our partners identified through our proposal process last year made it clear that journalists in those states would benefit greatly from increased legal support,” said Katie Townsend, legal director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “With a rising wave of enthusiasm for government transparency in Oregon, a fairly new Right to Know Law in Pennsylvania, and the need to challenge public records denials in court in Colorado, there is a substantial opportunity to improve the press and public’s right to access government information and proceedings in each of these states. We’re excited to have Paula, Ellen and Rachael be a part of the Reporters Committee team working on these issues.”
For more information on the Local Legal Initiative, go to rcfp.org/local.
The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.