The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has received a $300,000 grant from NBCUniversal News Group to sustain and continue to expand its capacity to provide pro bono legal support for journalists of color and newsrooms that are led by journalists of color.
The Reporters Committee will offer a Race Equity in Journalism Fellowship for the next three years to build upon the success of the fellowship position since its inception in 2020 thanks to generous initial support from Borealis Philanthropy.
“Newsrooms build trust with their audiences when they reflect the communities that they serve,” said Cesar Conde, chairman of NBCU News Group. “We are delighted to partner with the Reporters Committee as part of this effort and to support its vital mission of protecting the legal rights of journalists, particularly in communities that have been historically underserved.”
The first NBCU News Group Race Equity in Journalism Fellow will start at the Reporters Committee in the fall of 2022, and will conduct focused outreach to journalists of color and newsrooms led by journalists of color to better understand and support their unique legal needs through pro bono legal services, resources and training.
The Reporters Committee initially launched the fellowship two years ago in response to attacks and arrests that journalists nationwide — including many journalists of color — faced while covering protests. Also challenging for journalists has been reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, which has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color. Future fellows will continue to focus on these threats in addition to other legal obstacles facing journalists, such as obtaining public records and accessing court records and proceedings.
“We are immensely grateful to NBCU News Group for their generous gift, which is crucial to our efforts to understand and meet the legal needs of journalists of color and newsrooms that are led by journalists of color,” said Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “We’re incredibly proud of the work we’ve done so far in partnership with Borealis Philanthropy, and look forward to building upon that progress to ensure all journalists can continue to produce vital reporting for their communities, all across the country.”
Over the last two years, Legal Fellow Kamesha Laurry, who currently holds the fellowship position made possible by Borealis Philanthropy, has worked to identify, support, and address the legal needs of historically underserved journalists, reporters and documentary filmmakers of color, and to connect them with the Reporters Committee’s pro bono legal resources. She has partnered with and hosted a wide variety of legal trainings and webinars for numerous journalism organizations, provided pre-publication review assistance to independent journalists and documentarians, and worked alongside Reporters Committee attorneys on litigation matters and amicus briefs in cases involving First Amendment and media law issues.
“I feel a true sense of accomplishment in this position every time I’m able to provide a journalist of color or BIPOC media outlet with legal support they may not have otherwise had, and then see them publish a story or screen a documentary film that benefited from that support,” said Laurry. “When journalists know the Reporters Committee’s free resources are at their fingertips, it helps lower the barriers they face when trying to access public records and meetings, protect their sources and work product, or stay safe while covering protests. I’ve had the opportunity to equip journalists of color with tools they can tap into when they face newsgathering challenges so they can ultimately keep meeting the critical information needs of their communities.”
More information on the fellowship is available on the Reporters Committee’s website.
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.