The E.W. Scripps Company and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press are forming a significant partnership focused on supporting local enterprise and investigative journalism, bolstering access to public records and encouraging greater government transparency.
Scripps and the Reporters Committee are establishing The E.W. Scripps Fellow for Press Freedom, a legal fellowship program that will bring media-law resources to local communities that too often lack the necessary resources to pursue public access to open records.
The Scripps legal fellow and the Reporters Committee will provide this legal counsel pro bono, supported by a $100,000 per year commitment from Scripps, specifically focused on local news organizations engaging in sometimes lengthy and costly open records requests.
“A healthy democracy depends on a high level of government transparency, and yet local journalists often find their pursuit of truth blocked by city hall officials, police departments and other government agencies that deny access to the records the public has a right to see,” Scripps President and CEO Adam Symson said. “Our company’s mission to ‘give light and the people will find their own way’ demands journalists operate in an environment with sunlight. Scripps is proud to stand with the Reporters Committee and journalists across the country to ensure our First Amendment freedoms are protected.”
As the only national legal services organization focusing on pro bono representation for journalists and news organizations, the Reporters Committee also supports journalists through its legal defense hotline, online guides and trainings and prepublication partnerships. It coordinates a network of First Amendment and media law clinics at law schools around the country to help meet the needs of local and regional journalists.
“Nowhere is the need for legal support in journalism greater than at the local level,” said Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “The new E.W. Scripps Fellow is an integral addition to the Reporters Committee legal team as we prioritize our efforts to meet that need. We’re grateful for the partnership with The E.W. Scripps Company that will not only advance this work but will help us continue to expand the network of lawyers with the expertise to help news organizations.”
Over the last five years, the Reporters Committee has filed amicus curiae briefs or litigated First Amendment cases in 34 out of 50 states in addition to Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Scripps, along with other news organizations, has joined most of those briefs in support of First Amendment freedoms.
“The E.W. Scripps fellow will advance the press freedoms of local and regional news organizations across the country by fighting on the front lines of local open records challenges,” said Dave Giles, Scripps’ vice president, deputy general counsel and chief ethics officer. “The vigilant defense of free press is central to advancing government transparency and the creation of a better-informed world –central pillars to our mission at Scripps.”
The E.W. Scripps Company (NASDAQ: SSP) serves audiences and businesses through a growing portfolio of local and national media brands. With 52 television stations in 36 markets, Scripps is one of the nation’s largest independent TV station owners. Scripps runs a collection of national journalism and content businesses, including Newsy, the next-generation national news network; podcast industry leader Stitcher; the fast-growing national broadcast networks Bounce, Grit, Escape, Laff and Court TV; and Triton, the global leader in digital audio technology and measurement services. Scripps runs an award-winning investigative reporting newsroom in Washington, D.C., and is the longtime steward of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Founded in 1878, Scripps has held for decades to the motto, “Give light and the people will find their own way.”
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 the nation’s leading news organizations; thousands of reporters, editors, and media lawyers; and many more who use our online and mobile resources. For updates on our work, sign up for our email list, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.