On Saturday, Murray Fromson, a professor at the University of Southern California and a longtime reporter passed away at 88. Fromson helped found the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in 1970 amid hostility from the Nixon administration and a wave of government subpoenas asking reporters to name confidential sources.
In honor of the Reporters Committee’s 35th anniversary in 2005, Fromson wrote about its founding.
One case particularly galvanized American journalists. New York Times reporter Earl Caldwell was ordered to reveal to a federal grand jury his sources in the Black Panther organization, threatening his independence as a newsgatherer.
Caldwell’s dilemma prompted a meeting at Georgetown University to discuss the need to provide legal assistance to journalists when their First Amendment rights come under fire. Among those present, or involved soon afterwards, were J. Anthony Lukas, Murray Fromson, Fred Graham, Jack Nelson, Ben Bradlee, Eileen Shanahan, Mike Wallace, Robert Maynard and Tom Wicker.
They formed a committee that operated part-time and on a shoestring (its first “office” was a desk in the press room at the U.S. Supreme Court). With support from foundations and news organizations, the founders built a staff and began recruiting attorneys to donate their services.
Our sincere condolences to his family, his colleagues, and all those who knew him.