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Guides Archive

Our up-to-date Guides and Resources are located at https://www.rcfp.org/resources/.

The News Media & The Law
A quarterly magazine, featuring articles on current controversies and interesting developments in First Amendment and Freedom of Information law that affect the news media. (Final issue, Winter 2016)

The First Amendment Handbook (7th Edition, January 2011)
This booklet is designed to provide a basic primer on the laws affecting reporters’ rights to gather and disseminate news. American journalists need to know their rights, and how to fight back when those rights are threatened; The First Amendment Handbook is an important weapon in that fight.

Federal Open Government Guide (10th Edition, 2009, updated information now found at the FOIA Wiki)
Designed as a general “do-it-yourself” guide to using the federal Freedom of Information Act and other federal access laws, this booklet describes how to use the laws as effective investigative tools, and provides sample letters, forms and directories to assist you in dealing with the government promptly and effectively.

All publications alphabetically:

A Reporter’s Field Guide (Winter 2006)
A guide to covering the news in public places, private property, government buildings, and more.

A Reporter’s Guide to American Indian Law (Fall 2006)
A look at the extend of openness laws and other First Amendment protections on land controlled by American Indians.

A Reporter’s Guide to Medical Privacy Law (Summer 2002)
A guide to HIPAA, restrictive medical rules that will affect how journalists cover stories.

A Reporter’s Guide to Military Justice (Summer 2006)
A look at information access rights within the military justice system.

Access to Electronic Communications (Spring 2009)
A state-by-state guide to obtaining access to e-mail and other electronic communications of government officials.

Access to Police Records (Winter 2008)
Examines the laws in all states concerning access to records from police files.

Agents of Discovery (2003)
A Report on the Incidence of Subpoenas Served on the News Media in 2001.

Reporter’s Recording Guide (formerly, “Can We Tape?”) (2012)
A state-by-state guide to laws on taping phone calls and conversations and how they affect newsgathering.

Federal FOIA Appeals Guide (1st Edition, 2012, now found at the FOIA Wiki)
Designed as a “do-it-yourself” guide to help journalists draft federal Freedom of Information Act administrative appeal letters, the guide details the various issues that often arise in FOIA denials. It dicusses how to appeal both substantive denials under the FOIA’s nine exemptions as well as a variety of procedural-based denials.

Homefront Confidential (5th Edition, September 2004)
A detailed report on the War on Terrorism’s effect on newsgathering, release of public information, and the public’s right to know. The report covers issues involving war reporting, pooling, state efforts to restrict information access, military tribunals, and the PATRIOT Act.

Photographers Guide to Privacy (Fall 2007)
How laws on the right to privacy affect photojournalists.

Police, Protesters and the Press (Winter 2012, a 2018 update can be found here.)
How a wave of protests across the nation has tested police-press relations, and what it means for journalists who cover them.

Private Eyes (Fall 2010)
Confidentiality issues and access to police investigation records.

Privatization v. The Public’s Right to Know (Summer 2007)
A look at how government out-sourcing of services affects access to records.

SLAPP Stick (Summer 2011)
Fighting frivolous lawsuits against journalists

Secret Justice:
A series of reports on access to the judicial system

Access to Juror Questionnaires (Spring 2011)
A guide to access to juror questionnaires

Access to Juvenile Justice (Spring 2012)
A state-by-state guide to juvenile courts nationwide.

Access to Terrorism Proceedings (Winter 2002)
An examination of post-9/11 access to criminal proceedings, immigration hearings, and military tribunals.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (Fall 2001)
A look at the alternatives to court proceedings used by litigants, and how the media can fight to gain access.

Anonymous Juries (Fall 2000)
A report on a growing trend and advice to counteract it.

Gag Orders (Spring 2001)
Understanding and fighting judge’s efforts to silence participants in the judicial process.

Grand Juries (Fall 2004)
An examination of issues surrounding access to information regarding grand juries.

Judicial Speech (Spring 2004)
An examination of the rules governing what judges can and cannot say to the news media.

Jury Records and Proceedings (Winter 2009)
Access issues concerning jurors.

Off Base: Military Court Dockets (Summer 2008)
A guide to access to military court dockets and proceedings

Online Access to Plea Agreements (Summer 2010)
A survey of federal court policies on sealing of plea and cooperation agreements.

Secret Dockets (Summer 2003)
A look at the courts that keep controversial cases shrouded from public view by never placing the case on a public docket.

Secret Juries (Summer 2005)
A look at the trend toward sealing jurors’ identities, and what that means to covering the courts.

Warrants & Wiretaps (Winter 2010)
A look at the law governing access to search warrants, arrest warrants and wiretap transcripts.

Sunshine, Inc. (Summer 2009)
The basics of covering business organizations

The Lost Stories (November 2003)
How a steady stream of laws, regulations and judicial decisions have eroded reporting on important issues.

White Paper: Military Dockets (August 2008)
Examining the public’s right of access to the workings of military justice.