ProJourn is an innovative approach to providing journalists — small news organizations, nonprofit newsrooms, documentary filmmakers and freelancers — no-cost legal help with pre-publication review and public records access.
The initiative, piloted in Washington and California in 2020 and 2021 by Davis Wright Tremaine LLP and Microsoft, brings together teams of seasoned media attorneys and corporate in-house counsel to build the bench of legal support and meet the growing needs of local journalists.
Operated by the Reporters Committee, ProJourn is expanding this year in Georgia, North Carolina, New York and Texas after a pilot phase and landscape study demonstrated the critical need for increased legal support for local journalism.
How we can help
We review submissions (e.g., articles, podcasts, opinion pieces) identified by the writer as potentially high risk, either because of the subject matter or the parties named, and provide legal guidance for the journalist to consider.
Access to public records
We seek to support journalists in creating a clearly written request for identifiable documents within a government agency’s possession, custody, or control, ensure that it’s done in a manner that is compliant with existing laws, and provide legal support to the extent possible in pursuing the request thereafter.
Who we can help
ProJourn’s current eligibility criteria encourage inquiries from newsrooms that are independently owned, community-focused, located near news deserts and can’t afford to pay legal fees, and include in their coverage underserved communities.
Where we can help
We facilitate pre-publication review nationally. Reach out to us wherever you are located, and we will do our best to help you.
For state public records requests, we are operating in Washington, California, Georgia, North Carolina, New York and Texas.
Requests for assistance
If you need pro bono legal assistance with pre-publication or public records access, we kindly ask you to fill out this form. Your responses will help us assess whether you are eligible to benefit from our pro bono program.
Our goal is to support a free and robust press, and we aim to provide support regardless of the point of view of the writer. Before accepting a matter, however, we must ensure that applicants meet our eligibility criteria and the matter falls within the current scope of our program.
Consequently, if we decline a matter, it is not necessarily an indication that the matter is not appropriate for legal representation, only that we are unable to assist, due to conflict, timing, resource, or other constraints.
Please note law firms will independently run their conflict checks before accepting a matter.
We vet each application considering the above-mentioned eligibility criteria.
If you have questions please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you interested in providing pro bono legal services to journalists and newsrooms? ProJourn partners with law firms to secure pro bono attorneys for journalists to assist them in pre-publication and access to public records. Please complete this survey, and we look forward to collaborating!
Learn more about ProJourn
Read our landscape study: Standing up for Journalism: Increasing pro bono legal assistance to benefit communities and democracy
Our operating framework: ProJourn provides pro bono legal assistance to local news organizations, newsroom journalists, editors, newsroom managers, freelance journalists, documentary filmmakers and podcast creators, with an affirmative reach to BIPOC led newsrooms and journalists; newsrooms located in rural areas and/or surrounded by news deserts, as well as newsrooms whose audience includes underserved communities, such as BIPOC and constituencies whose first language is not English.
ProJourn strives to provide support regardless of the content of the stories involved and are agnostic on the topics covered.
ProJourn operates in accordance with Rule 6.1: Voluntary Pro Bono Public Service of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys, meaning providing legal service to individuals and entities that cannot afford access to justice or legal advice.