On Wednesday, ProJourn, a Reporters Committee program with support from Microsoft, Davis Wright Tremaine, and the Knight Foundation, announced the establishment of a new advisory committee. The committee, composed of leaders across the technology, media, and legal industries, will provide strategic counsel for the program. Thomas R. Burke, a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine, and Sima Sarrafan, assistant general counsel at Microsoft, will co-chair the committee.
“We created ProJourn to give journalists who cannot afford legal assistance pro bono support in the critical areas of pre-publication review and access to public records — and do so in a way that increases the number of trained lawyers,” said Sarrafan. “In convening this advisory committee, we bring together professionals with a broad range of skills and experience to help take ProJourn to the next level.”
Since its creation by Microsoft and Davis Wright as a pilot initiative, ProJourn has assisted news organizations and journalists with pre-publication review and public records access. Now operated as a program of the Reporters Committee, ProJourn has expanded its efforts to bring more law firms and corporate in-house counsel to scale its services and reach.
“ProJourn’s model of major corporate attorneys working with media lawyers to provide pro bono support for journalists is one that is strengthening journalism,” said Jim Brady, Knight’s vice president of journalism. “The establishment of ProJourn’s advisory committee will only fortify that important work.”
“In just three years, ProJourn has helped more than 75 news organizations and freelance reporters and facilitated more than 1,500 pro bono hours, worth over $1 million,” said ProJourn Director Flavie Fuentes. “Beyond numbers, journalists tell us that the legal support they receive through ProJourn is making their journalism bolder and more impactful. With this committee behind us, we look forward to recruiting and training more lawyers, helping more journalists, and getting more investigative stories out to the public.”
Joining the advisory committee are:
Ginny Badanes, senior director of Democracy Forward, Microsoft
Jon Hart, journalism consultant, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Duc Luu, director of business sustainability grantmaking, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Selina MacLaren, associate principal counsel, ABC News
Dave Margulius, co-founder, Quizlet Inc.
Heather Murray, managing attorney, Cornell Law School Local Journalism Project
Maye Primera, editorial director, El Tímpano
Andrew Ramsammy, co-founder, Equimedia Advisors
Evan Smith, senior advisor, Emerson Collective and The Texas Tribune
Nabiha Syed, chief executive officer, The Markup
“The depth of experience among the ProJourn advisory committee members is exceptional,” Burke said. “Their collective expertise will help to guide the direction of ProJourn as we scale to meet the growing need for legal support in the coming years.”
ProJourn is an innovative program that provides pro bono legal services to journalists, small news organizations, nonprofit newsrooms, documentary filmmakers, and freelancers by assisting with pre-publication review and public records access requests.
The initiative, piloted in Washington and California in 2020 and 2021 by Davis Wright Tremaine LLP and Microsoft, is now operated by the Reporters Committee and brings together seasoned media attorneys and corporate in-house counsel to build the bench of legal support and meet the growing needs of local journalists.