The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press announced today the launch of the Indiana Local Legal Initiative to provide vital pro bono legal support for Indiana newsrooms and journalists investigating and reporting the stories that matter most to their communities.
Indiana is the latest addition to the Reporters Committee’s Local Legal Initiative, which is active in Colorado, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.
“We are thrilled to expand the Local Legal Initiative into Indiana and build upon the Reporters Committee’s longtime work with journalists and news organizations in the state,” said Katie Townsend, deputy executive director and legal director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “Access to legal resources is a vital part of the infrastructure that underpins thriving local journalism, and we are excited to grow our ability to help Indiana journalists defend their newsgathering rights, access public records and court proceedings, and hold public officials accountable.”
The Reporters Committee will hire an attorney to work in Indiana and provide direct pro bono legal support to local journalists and news organizations pursuing enterprise and investigative reporting in their communities.
“The Hoosier State Press Association is thrilled to be welcoming the Local Legal Initiative to Indiana at such a critical time for newspapers across the state,” said HSPA Executive Director Amelia D. McClure. “The addition of their legal team will allow Indiana’s newspapers to navigate a changing media and legal landscape with nimble and responsive expertise, something that is extremely crucial as local newspapers fight to continue their role as a pillar in our democracy.”
HSPA played a pivotal role in bringing the Local Legal Initiative to Indiana, submitting an initial proposal for an attorney in 2019 during the pilot phase of the program, and continuing to build support for the program in the state.
With the addition of a Local Legal Initiative attorney in Indiana, the Reporters Committee will build upon the impactful work its attorneys have previously done on behalf of journalists and news outlets in the state.
In 2018, for example, Reporters Committee attorneys helped WTHR-TV sue a local school district to access public records concerning the suspension of a high school football coach. That lawsuit ultimately resulted in a landmark Indiana Supreme Court decision holding that agencies must provide specific facts explaining why a public employee is suspended, fired, or otherwise disciplined — a ruling that increases transparency across the state. More recently, the Reporters Committee and a coalition of six journalism and news organizations filed a federal lawsuit to block the enforcement of an Indiana law that makes it a crime to approach within 25 feet of a police officer after being told to withdraw.
The Reporters Committee launched the Local Legal Initiative in 2019 with a generous investment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Anchor support for the Local Legal Initiative in Indiana has been provided by Lumina Foundation.
“The Hoosier State Press Association’s leadership in working with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press made this legal support possible,” said Kevin Corcoran, strategy director for Lumina. “Our participation comes as part of the national Press Forward initiative to rebuild local news and information, especially for Black, Hispanic and Latino, immigrant and refugee, and low-income audiences who have not been served. We hope this will ensure the availability of public meetings and records for the benefit of every Hoosier.”
In just a few years, the Local Legal Initiative has transformed the local news landscape in Colorado, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee, empowering local journalists to fight for greater government transparency as they pursue local investigative and enterprise journalism in the public interest. The reporting made possible by the work of Local Legal Initiative attorneys in those states has provided the public access to a secret board meeting about school safety, prompted renewed scrutiny into the deaths of two Native American men at the hands of law enforcement, and exposed a transit agency’s failure to track incidents of sexual assault and harrassment against its employees, and much more.
“Since launching the Local Legal Initiative four years ago, we have seen the meaningful difference that free, on-the-ground legal support can make for local journalists as they tell the stories that matter to their communities,” said Bruce D. Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “We are grateful to Lumina Foundation and our news media partners in Indiana for their collaboration in bringing the Local Legal Initiative to the state to help power the kinds of local reporting that an informed and engaged democracy depends on.”
For more information on the Local Legal Initiative, go to rcfp.org/local.
About the Reporters Committee
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press provides pro bono legal representation, amicus curiae support, and other legal resources to protect First Amendment freedoms and the newsgathering rights of journalists. The Reporters Committee serves news organizations, reporters, editors, documentary filmmakers, media lawyers, and many more who use our free resources.
About the Hoosier State Press Association
The Hoosier State Press Association, founded in 1933, is a trade association representing 142 daily and weekly paid-circulation newspapers in Indiana. HSPA provides legal information, training, and other services to its members.
About Lumina Foundation
Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. We envision higher learning that is easy to navigate, addresses racial injustice, and meets the nation’s talent needs through a broad range of credentials. We are working toward a system that prepares people for informed citizenship and success in a global economy.