Scripps, Reporters Committee Join Forces
The E.W. Scripps Co. and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press are forming what they call “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-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 Co. 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.”