The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press hosted the 2017 Freedom of the Press Awards at The Pierre in New York City on May 23, honoring Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron, former Senior Vice President and Executive Editor of the Associated Press Kathleen Carroll, ProPublica Executive Chairman Paul Steiger, and the Media and First Amendment practice of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.
Former ABC Good Morning America and World News Tonight host Charles Gibson emceed the evening.
“It goes without saying that this is a defining moment in time for reporters and news organizations,” Gibson said. “People ask me all the time – even though I’m in retirement and away from the fray – how does your former profession feel about the current environment? And I tell them that I have no doubt the same conversation, the same debate, is going on in every newsroom in the country – how do we conduct ourselves now when many of those who control our government are intent on sowing doubt about our work – branding us as purveyors of fake news – and are generally impugning our integrity? And just judging from what I see of your work – the answer is the same everywhere. You will do your jobs with as much rigor, precision, and effort as ever before – maybe more. And the integrity of the profession will be ever apparent.”
To kick off the evening Reporters Committee Chairman David Boardman welcomed guests and made a special announcement of a $1 million gift from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to the Reporters Committee.
“This generous gift will help us continue to grow, to offer our legal and educational support to many more news organizations, and to expand our services to independent journalists, nonprofit newsrooms and documentary filmmakers,” Boardman said. “We’ll also be better positioned to help local newsrooms, the places hit hardest by the disruption in the news industry and whose survival is every bit as crucial to American democracy as those entities headquartered in Washington and New York.”
Reporters Committee also announced that will play a leading role in administering an expanded First Look Media Press Freedom Defense Fund of up to $6 million. The fund will review and evaluate grant requests and award funds to strengthen the ability of news organizations and journalists to pursue legal fights where a substantial public interest is at stake.
In his remarks to the audience Reporters Committee Executive Director Bruce Brown outlined several important cases that RCFP has taken on thanks to a renewed focus on expanding litigation.
“With your support, the Reporters Committee has been growing with new staff and new projects. Our litigation practice, only started three years ago, now has over 20 active matters,” Brown said. “We are taking cases for small publishers, investigative journalists, nonprofits, magazine writers as well as for major media. From her recent win for the Acorn in state court in Camarillo, California (population 65,000), our litigation director in two days squares off in the Second Circuit against lawyers for the Trump Organization as we seek to unseal the settlement agreement of the class action lawsuit filed by the workers who built Trump Tower. Our shingle says no case too small or too big. So from the Reporters Committee to all of you: ‘We’ve got you covered too.’”
Washington Post Publisher Fred Ryan and Microsoft’s Jonathan Palmer and David Howard served as dinner chairs.
In his remarks, Ryan addressed one of the dangerous sides of so-called fake news.
“It is especially troubling when those in power exploit this situation and attempt to discredit trusted news outlets by conflating unfavorable news with fake news,” he said. “It is corrosive to our democracy when they attempt to deliberately erode the credibility of legitimate news organizations because they object to factually accurate reporting. Wrongly applying a ‘fake news’ label is an attack on the truth.
Increasing threats against journalists were a common theme, and in a rousing speech, special guest and New York Times Deputy General Counsel David McCraw reiterated the best way to fight back against those threats. The solution McCraw, who famously responded to then-candidate Donald Trump’s threat to sue the paper for libel in a letter that went viral, gave was for journalists to “keep doing what you’re doing.”
“For all the toxic noise coming out of the White House, I do not see journalists silencing themselves, I do not see journalists backing off,” McCraw said. “What I see is journalists asking the right questions, writing tough stories, doing what they have always done — helping the American people understand what is being done in their name.”
During the event, there was also a special tribute to PBS NewsHour co-host and host of Washington Week Gwen Ifill, who passed away last year by Atlantic Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Goldberg.
The event also was host to a silent auction of 20 original works donated by leading cartoonists.
Special thanks to our 2017 Freedom of the Press Awards Dinner supporters
Special Gratitude to Jeff Bezos and The Washington Post
Google • Microsoft Corporation
Davis Wright Tremaine LLP • Meryl Streep
AOL Inc. • The Associated Press • Carole & Richard Rifkind
Scott Asen • Bloomberg Philanthropies • Hill + Knowlton Strategies • News Media Alliance • The Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation, Inc. • Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP • Williams & Connolly LLP
ABC News • A+E Networks • ALM Media • Atlantic Media •AT&T • Don Baer, Burson-Marsteller • Baker Hostetler LLP • BuzzFeed News • CBS News • CNN • Covington & Burling LLP • Democracy Fund • Digital Content Next • Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal • Facebook • First Look Media • Gannett Co., Inc. and USA Today Network • Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP • HBO •Hearst Corporation • John S. & James L. Knight Foundation • Klein College of Media and Communication, Temple University • McClatchy • National Geographic • NBC News • The New York Times • NPR • Jim & Mary Ottaway • Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP • PBS • Reuters • Straus News • tronc, Inc. • Univision Communications Inc. • Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
J. Scott Applewhite • Dechert LLP • Fish & Richardson PC • Gannett Foundation • Agnes Gund • Laura R. Handman • John & Pat Henry • Margaret Low • Participant Media • Arleen & Robert S. Rifkind • Kelli Sager & Steve Rosenwasser • The Seattle Times • TEGNA Inc. • Saundra & Jack Torry
APCO Worldwide • Chip & Deborah Bok • Bruce Brown & Amy Rifkind • Hodding Carter • Jim Caruso • CUNY Graduate School of Journalism • Discovery Communications • Anita Dunn & Robert Bauer • Martin Garbus • Amy Glickman • Linda Greenhouse & Eugene R. Fidell • James V. Grimaldi • Bruce E.H. Johnson • Susan King • Victor A. Kovner • Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, LLP • Ann Walker Marchant • Jane Mayer • Elizabeth A. McNamara • Maggie Mulvihill • Jim Neff, Philadelphia News Media • The New Yorker • Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP • Carol Rosenberg • Pierre Thomas • Richard Tofel • Vinson & Elkins LLP • Kinsey Wilson
Anonymous • Douglas C. Clifton • Ernestine & Durrell Kreisher • John Martin • Barbara Matusow Nelson • Robert M. O’Neil • Kenneth Vittor & Judith Aisen