Transformational gift will go toward increasing legal support to local news organizations nationwide amid growing need
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced today a $10 million investment in the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press as part of the Knight Foundation’s pledge to double its commitment to strengthening journalism to $300 million over the next five years.
“To hold power to account and fulfill their role as watchdogs for democracy, journalists must be able to go to court. Yet, many local news organizations are struggling financially and are unable to take up this cause,” said Jennifer Preston, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism. “As a leading nonprofit provider of legal assistance to newsrooms, the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press is helping to fill this gap. Their expansion to more local communities will help ensure that local journalists have the support they need to produce quality, trusted journalism.”
With this investment, the Reporters Committee will expand the number of staff attorneys working on local issues and grow its network of pro bono lawyers providing legal support to local journalists and news organizations.
“This transformational investment comes at a critical time, when local newsrooms’ capacity to advocate for their right to pursue and publish information is dwindling,” said David Boardman, chair of the Reporters Committee. “We are ready and eager to work with newsrooms across the country to help them defend their — and the public’s — First Amendment rights so they can produce reporting that holds the powerful accountable.”
The Reporters Committee will embed lawyers across the country to defend against legal threats and lawsuits, assist with public records and court access efforts, and provide prepublication review and other legal services.
“In the face of mounting threats against our free press, it’s more important than ever that we equip newsrooms to overcome legal challenges they may face in bringing important stories to light,” said Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee. “We feel truly inspired and empowered by the Knight Foundation’s ambitious commitment to supporting press freedom in communities nationwide.”
The investment builds upon the long-standing support from the Knight Foundation and other major donors for the Reporters Committee’s mission to meet the legal needs of journalists since 1970.
“This support will allow us to scale our legal work in innovative ways and expand our ability to serve journalists most in need of legal support,” said Katie Townsend, legal director for the Reporters Committee. “Local journalism is the bedrock of informed communities, but the newsgathering and other challenges journalists face covering local stories are placing that vital work at risk.”
In addition to the Reporters Committee, the Knight Foundation also announced nine other investments in organizations working to rebuild trust and foster sustainability in local journalism, including the American Journalism Project, ProPublica, Report for America, Frontline, NewsMatch, Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund, The News Literacy Project, Solutions Journalism Network, and Cortico.
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit kf.org.
About the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press was founded by leading journalists and media lawyers in 1970 when the nation’s news media faced an unprecedented wave of government subpoenas forcing reporters to name confidential sources. Today it provides pro bono legal representation, amicus curiae support, and other legal resources to protect First Amendment freedoms and the newsgathering rights of journalists.