Nonprofit of the Week: Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Organization: The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Location: Washington, D.C.

Mission: The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press provides pro bono representation and other resources to protect the First Amendment and newsgathering freedoms of journalists.  

Regions of Service: The U.S.

About the cause:

“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The First Amendment was established during the birth of our nation but in 2020 interpreting those words is more complicated than originally imagined. The internet, libel, and intellectual property laws are all modern First Amendment issues covered by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

About the organization: 

Established in 1970 during a wave of government subpoenas, the Reporters Committee serves news organizations, reporters, and many more that need First Amendment resources. The organization is comprised of staff attorneys, legal fellows, policy analysts, development coordinators, and journalists that work together to champion the First Amendment and promote their work.

What they do:

On their freshly updated website, the Reporters Committee offers state-by-state legal guides for a variety of issues including, but not limited to, the Freedom of Information Act – which provides the public with the right to access federal records or information with few exceptions – and protections against Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation lawsuits that maintain that a person could be sued for menial things such as leaving a bad review. Though the organization serves only professional journalists, the website is an educational tool for students.

In the day to day, attorneys draft amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs that provide expert First Amendment knowledge in legal matters. These briefs are submitted to local and Supreme Court cases most often pleading the case of the public’s right to know. Journalists in need may also call the legal hotline for advice.

Impact:

The Reporters Committee has spent the last 50 years serving the American public from Washington, D.C. In the last 50 years, the nonprofit organization has weighed in on cases as notorious as the OJ Simpson trial in 1995 or as simple as freedom of speech in the classroom.