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Knight Foundation grant to Reporters Committee enables more outreach to help online journalists

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Funding also provides for website redesign, hiring first communications director For Immediate Release: March 1, 2011 Washington, DC — The…

Funding also provides for website redesign, hiring first communications director

For Immediate Release: March 1, 2011

Washington, DC — The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation of Miami has made a one-year $200,000 grant to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to expand its outreach to a new generation of online journalists, ensuring they are aware of its legal services, information and other free resources available on media law issues.

In addition, the grant will help fund a retooling of the Reporters Committee website,, and provide for the hiring of the organization’s first communications director, former Sunshine Week Coordinator and journalist Debra Gersh Hernandez.

“Over the past two years, many newsrooms have reduced their litigation budgets as well as the size of their staffs. Laid-off journalists and newcomers to the field who work mostly online need high-quality legal and freedom of information services that only the Reporters Committee can provide,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish. “The Knight Foundation grant will allow us to help those reporters.”

Though well known among established media outlets for its free legal advice, issue support, amicus briefs and myriad resources for journalists, the Reporters Committee is working to build awareness among journalists and media outlets whose work appears online. Funds from this grant will enable the Reporters Committee to engage in more outreach to non-profits, news organizations and individual journalists, as well as to develop marketing materials to spread the word within the online journalism community.

“This grant provides the Reporters Committee with an opportunity to really engage a new generation of journalists,” said Amy Starlight Lawrence, Journalism Program Associate. “The organization has been serving journalists for 40 years, yet its brand is not as widely known as it could be among digital media journalists — now it can bridge that gap and the new website will reflect its commitment to involving its online audience.”

The Reporters Committee website is a treasure trove of valuable information about media law and access to government information. It houses the nationwide Open Government Guide, the First Amendment Handbook, scores of articles about media legal issues, copies of legal briefs and opinions, Freedom of Information resources, links to other online resources, and entire sections on privacy, court access, covering terrorism and more. With the Knight Foundation grant, the site will be retooled to make these materials easier to use and to help the Reporters Committee make better use of social media opportunities.

The grant also allows the Reporters Committee to hire its first director of communications, who is charged with developing a general communications strategy, as well as more specifically focusing on cultivating current and new funders and coordinating fundraising events, working on the new website, and growing a stronger social media presence for the organization. Beginning in the job March 1 is Debra Gersh Hernandez, the former coordinator of the national Sunshine Week open government initiative. Most recently she worked as an independent consultant to the National Judicial Education Program, the Student Press Law Center, the National Newspaper Association, the Reporters Committee and others. Previously, she was vice president of communications for the Newspaper Association of America. For many years, Gersh Hernandez was a reporter and editor for Editor & Publisher magazine, first in New York City and later in Washington, D.C.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote informed and engaged communities and lead to transformational change. For more, visit

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.