Reporters Committee's first Executive Director, Jack Landau, dies (updated)

Press Release | August 15, 2008
Reporters Committee's first Executive Director, Jack Landau, dies (updated)

Updated with memoriam arrangements

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is saddened to learn of the death of its first executive director, Jacob C. (Jack) Landau. Landau, 74, died on Aug 9. He was a resident of Falls Church, Va.

Landau, a lawyer and journalist, frequently referred to himself as a "First Amendment guerilla." He had been a Supreme Court reporter for Newhouse Newspapers when he briefly left journalism to become a spokesman for Attorney General John Mitchell at the start of the Nixon Administration. He left the Justice Department in April 1970 to return to his job at Newhouse, and immediately became involved as a volunteer for the Reporters Committee, which had held its first meeting in March 1970.

For the first few years of the Reporters Committee's existence, Landau and then-New York Times reporter (and attorney) Fred Graham answered most of the emergency calls for assistance from reporters. Eventually, with the indulgence of Newhouse, Landau evolved into the full-time executive director of the Reporters Committee.

"Jack Landau was a tireless, innovative force during the early years of the Reporters Committee," Graham, who still serves on the Reporters Committee steering committee, said Friday. "Many of the things we do now were dreamed up by Jack. He should be remembered as a pioneer in protecting reporter's rights."

Under Landau's leadership, the Reporters Committee started a hot-line that reporters in trouble could call night or day; created the Press Censorship Newsletter (which exists today as the quarterly magazine The News Media & the Law); and worked with other media groups to press for state and federal shield laws. Landau also hired full-time lawyers who wrote amicus curiae briefs and worked with pro bono counsel pursuing First Amendment litigation on behalf of the media.

By the time he resigned his position in 1985, Landau had created a full-service legal defense and advocacy organization that worked on behalf of journalists across the country.

Landau was a graduate of Harvard University and New York University Law School. He also served as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in 1968. He is survived by his son, Nicholas, and his daughter, Ariel.

A reception in his honor will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturday Aug. 23 at 3800 Powell Lane in Falls Church, VA. The family asks that memorials be contributed to the charity of the donor's choice.