I wish you and your loved ones the very best during this difficult time. It certainly feels like everything changed almost overnight and we are juggling new stressors each day.
Like you, I’m relying heavily on many journalists and news organizations to bring me the latest information that I need to keep my family safe and healthy. I’m keenly aware right now of just how essential a free press is to our society.
And because I work with the pro bono attorneys at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, I’m also aware of how ever-tightening government restrictions can quickly obstruct the legal rights of journalists and their ability to get us the information we need during this public health crisis.
Because you have chosen to contribute to our mission, I wanted you to know how our team is responding.
This month started with what felt like our normal workload. In the first week, our lawyers were busy working on legal cases, amicus briefs, and answering hotline calls from journalists; our communications team had just published a fantastic report about the Local Legal Initiative (which I encourage you to add to your quarantine reading list), and the fundraising team was planning events and talking to donors about their support.
But at the start of week two, we made the decision that our entire team would disperse to work from home, and we cancelled all non-essential travel for the foreseeable future.
I will tell you every time you ask me what makes the Reporters Committee so special: It’s the people who are unwaveringly committed to the mission. I have witnessed this again and again over the last ten days, during which, in what seemed like a blink of the eye, our incredible team pivoted to respond to rising calls for help from journalists with questions that run across a range of legal issues related to the public health crisis. We quickly published new resources on the key COVID-19 issues that journalists, news organizations and media lawyers are bringing to us. We created fact sheets about access to courts, access to public meetings/public records, and one about newsgathering in places with emergency measures in place. These are posted on the Reporters Committee website and will be continuously updated. And, we will continue to publish additional resources as the situation unfolds.
We absolutely understand the need to close courts, and restrict exposure in government offices and other public spaces in order to stop the spread of coronavirus. The actions we take today will protect us and our loved ones tomorrow.
Likewise, the actions we take now to protect the legal rights of reporters and the laws around newsgathering during this unprecedented crisis will have lasting implications for our democracy in the years to come.
Thank you for standing with us as we provide free legal support to journalists and newsrooms across the United States. We all appreciate you more than ever.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
Please spread the word about the resources we have published.
And, please, above all else, stay safe and healthy.
My very best,
Jennifer K. Pelton, CFRE
Director of Development
firstname.lastname@example.org (202) 795-9319
1156 15th St. NW, Suite 1020, Washington, D.C., 20005