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Local Legal Initiative

A growing number of local and regional news organizations and journalists lack the legal support they need to pursue enterprise and investigative stories in their communities. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is helping to change that. 

With generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Reporters Committee is expanding to provide direct legal services to more journalists at the local level. For the first time in our 50-year history, multiple Reporters Committee lawyers will be based in different locations across the country to support local enterprise and investigative journalism.

The Reporters Committee will employ a lawyer in up to five jurisdictions in 2020 to help local journalists and news organizations defend their rights to gather and report the news, gain access to public records and court proceedings, and hold state and local government agencies and officials accountable.

Want a Reporters Committee attorney working in your city or state? Submit a proposal.

The Initiative

The Reporters Committee will work closely and collaboratively with local and regional partners. Potential partners include, for example, nonprofit and for-profit local and regional news organizations, state and local press associations, law firms, state and regional nonprofit organizations, universities and other educational institutions, and anyone committed to helping local journalism thrive.

If you are part of a local journalism community that would benefit from the legal support of a Reporters Committee attorney in your city or state, tell us why.

Submit a proposal by 11:59 p.m. ET October 31, 2019, highlighting:

    • Local and regional news organizations and journalists whose reporting would benefit from additional legal support, and how their reporting would benefit.
    • The biggest legal challenges facing enterprise and investigative reporters in your city or state.
    • How additional pro bono legal support would enable enterprise and investigative reporting about state and local issues affecting communities in your city or state.
    • View the full list of questions.

Because we believe that supporting vibrant and high-impact local journalism is a team effort, joint proposals are strongly encouraged.

Criteria for Selection

All proposals received by the Reporters Committee will be carefully considered. Criteria for selecting locations for Reporters Committee attorneys will include geographic diversity, the need for additional legal support in the jurisdiction, the presence of local and regional partners, and the ability of a member of the Reporters Committee’s legal team to make a measurable impact in that jurisdiction, both in terms of facilitating important local journalism and in improving the overall ecosystem for local journalism through impact litigation, training, and other work.

Submit Your Proposal

Frequently Asked Questions

How many jurisdictions will the Local Legal Initiative involve? How long will the attorneys be there?
The Reporters Committee will hire attorneys in up to five jurisdictions in 2020. Attorneys will be initially hired for two-year terms.

What do you mean by “jurisdiction”?
Primarily, states (as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico). While we anticipate most proposals will be state-based, a proposal could be smaller (e.g., the western part of a state), or larger (e.g., two states), if appropriate. If you are submitting a proposal on behalf of a jurisdiction other than the entirety of a single state, please be sure to indicate it clearly.

Should LLI proposals be for a specific project or topic?
No. The proposals should focus on the legal needs and opportunities in a jurisdiction, generally. While we’d be interested in hearing if there are specific projects or legal issues that might benefit from the work of an attorney, attorneys will work on issues across the jurisdiction as they arise.

Will the LLI attorneys only work with the entities that are part of the proposal process?
No. RCFP will look to proposals to identify partners who will help us determine initial needs and opportunities in a jurisdiction; while we anticipate that the entities who submit proposals will work closely with the attorney in their jurisdiction, attorneys will be able to work with any reporters or news organizations in their respective jurisdictions.

Who will the attorneys report to/be employed by? Who will make decisions about which matters attorneys become involved in?
Attorneys will be RCFP employees and fully integrated into RCFP’s existing legal team. All RCFP attorneys are guided by specific litigation priorities and internal processes. Attorneys will work with partner organizations and news media entities in their jurisdiction to identify needs and opportunities, but ultimately all legal decisions will be made by RCFP attorneys.

What kind of work will these attorneys do?
These attorneys will be an extension of the legal work RCFP attorneys already perform, but focused on a specific jurisdiction. The type of work will vary based on the needs of different states, but could include public records and court access litigation, training, and providing information through RCFP’s hotline. Attorneys will not be working on contract, employment, or intellectual property matters.

I’m a freelancer, can I get involved in the proposal process?
Yes! We encourage freelancers to get in touch with the entities leading the proposal process for their state to collaborate. Please contact us if you need additional information.

When do proposals need to be submitted?
A: All proposals must be received by 11:59 p.m. eastern on October 31, 2019.

My state is interested in submitting a proposal, but we have additional questions. Can we talk with someone before submitting?
Yes! Please feel free to email Adam Marshall or Josh Moore.

I don’t know whether my state has already submitted a proposal/I want to become part of it so; can you help me with that?
Yes! Please email Adam Marshall or Josh Moore.