The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press will continue to expand its work with law school clinics across the country in 2021 with the support of three generous grants from the Legal Clinic Fund, Lodestar Foundation and First Look Media’s Press Freedom Defense Fund. The investments will support the Reporters Committee’s work with legal clinics nationwide, including those that are members of the Free Expression Legal Network. The Reporters Committee launched the Free Expression Legal Network in 2019 in partnership with the Yale Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic to promote collaboration among law school clinics, help law students gain important hands-on experience representing journalists and connect potential news media clients with legal support.
“We are grateful for the support of the Legal Clinic Fund, Lodestar Foundation and Press Freedom Defense Fund as we continue to bring together the efforts of numerous law school clinics to provide newsgatherers of all types with pro bono legal support,” said Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “There is a tremendous opportunity to grow the capacity of these clinics to support journalists and news organizations, especially at the local level, in overcoming legal challenges they may face while working to bring important information to their communities.”
A $200,000 grant from the Legal Clinic Fund — a collaborative effort to support the growth and sustainability of legal clinics across the U.S. that seek to advance and defend First Amendment rights, media freedom, and transparency in their communities and nationally — has enabled the Reporters Committee to hire a full-time clinical legal fellow to work with its attorneys who direct the University of Virginia School of Law’s First Amendment Clinic. The UVA clinic offers hands-on experience to law students in free speech and press freedom cases, primarily for local news organizations. The Legal Clinic Fund is supported by the Abrams Foundation, Democracy Fund, Heising-Simons Foundation and The Klarman Family Foundation. The Miami Foundation serves as its fiscal sponsor.
“The Legal Clinic Fund was established to help create a new legal backbone for local journalists all across the country, and we are glad to partner with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and UVA in that mission,” said Joshua Stearns, director of the Public Square Program at Democracy Fund. “Ensuring local journalists have access to the legal support they need is critical to defending our free press and its role in our democracy.”
In addition, the Lodestar Foundation made a $50,000 challenge grant to support the Reporters Committee’s day-to-day administration of the Free Expression Legal Network, building upon its initial investments beginning in 2017 that were instrumental in realizing the vision for the network and launching it two years later. This additional grant will help ensure that journalists and documentary filmmakers can continue to access the legal resources and representation they need through a Reporters Committee attorney, law school clinic or a pro bono local counsel at a law firm, and encourage others to provide funding to support this work.
The Press Freedom Defense Fund met the Lodestar Foundation’s challenge grant with a $50,000 gift that will also support these efforts. Both investments will enable the Reporters Committee to expand upon the strong foundation of the Free Expression Legal Network and grow the learning opportunities and resources available to collaborating clinics.
“Journalism has been under attack, especially independent and local newsrooms who do not have access to the vital legal guidance they need when it comes to reporting information that is in the public interest,” said David Bralow, legal director for the Press Freedom Defense Fund. “Our Fund exists for this very reason, to support those who are unjustly threatened in pursuit of a free press and open society. We’re proud to support the Reporters Committee and Free Expression Legal Network with this grant, and we remain dedicated to our work in engaging valuable legal clinics nationwide to help support the journalists who could benefit from their counsel.”
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.