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Reporters Committee welcomes Kris Cundiff as Indiana Local Legal Initiative attorney

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Cundiff will provide pro bono legal support to journalists and newsrooms in Indiana.
Indiana Local Legal Initiative logo next to headshot for Indiana Local Legal Initiative Attorney Kris Cundiff

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press announced today the hiring of Kris Cundiff as its Local Legal Initiative attorney for Indiana, where he will provide journalists and news organizations across the state with the legal support they need to pursue enterprise and investigative stories in their communities.

Cundiff’s hiring marks an expansion of the Local Legal Initiative, which is now active in Colorado, Indiana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. He joins the Reporters Committee’s growing team of attorneys whose pro bono work at the local, state, and national level has helped increase government transparency and fuel investigative reporting in the public interest.

“We’re thrilled to have Kris join the Reporters Committee as we continue to expand our Local Legal Initiative, which has been incredibly successful in helping transform the landscape of local news,” said Katie Townsend, deputy executive director and legal director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “Kris’s experience as both a local reporter and deputy public access counselor makes him an excellent fit for a role focused on helping journalists and news organizations fight secrecy in local and state government.”

Cundiff comes to the Reporters Committee from Indiana’s Office of the Public Access Counselor, where he advised and assisted members of the public and government officials in navigating the state’s public access laws. In addition to clerking for the Indiana Solicitor General and serving as a legislative assistant for the Hoosier State Press Association, he also previously worked for many years as a journalist in local radio.

Cundiff, who is based just outside of Indianapolis, holds a J.D. from Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. He earned his undergraduate degree from Ball State University and an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to help the Reporters Committee continue its expansion of the Local Legal Initiative here at home,” Cundiff said. “Safeguarding the First Amendment rights of the press and ensuring government transparency in state and local government is critically important work. I couldn’t be more excited to be part of that effort. I’m ready to get started.”

He added: “I want Hoosier journalists and news organizations to know they have an ally when they’re out on the front lines doing such important work.”

The Reporters Committee launched the Local Legal Initiative in 2019 with a generous investment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Lumina Foundation has provided anchor support for the Local Legal Initiative in Indiana. Lumina’s funding is part of Press Forward, a national movement to strengthen communities by reinvigorating local news.

HSPA played a pivotal role in bringing the Local Legal Initiative to Indiana, submitting an initial proposal for an attorney in 2019 during the program’s pilot phase and continuing to build support for the program in the state.

“HSPA is thrilled to see such a well-qualified candidate filling this critical position,” said HSPA Executive Director Amelia D. McClure. “The Reporters Committee’s commitment to Indiana’s news industry is an incredible opportunity to favorably shape the legal landscape in Indiana and ensure that all Hoosiers are served by their local news outlets. We are eager to begin our work with Kris.”

Cundiff’s work as Indiana’s Local Legal Initiative attorney will build upon the impactful work Reporters Committee attorneys have previously done on behalf of journalists and news outlets in the state.

In 2018, for example, Reporters Committee attorneys helped WTHR-TV sue a local school district to access public records concerning the suspension of a high school football coach. That lawsuit ultimately resulted in a landmark Indiana Supreme Court decision holding that agencies must provide specific facts explaining why a public employee is suspended, fired, or otherwise disciplined — a ruling that increases transparency across the state. More recently, the Reporters Committee and a coalition of six journalism and news organizations filed a federal lawsuit to block the enforcement of an Indiana law that makes it a crime to approach within 25 feet of a police officer after being told to withdraw.

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