For many independent and nonprofit newsroom, producing journalism is like performing the flying trapeze without a net: very exciting, often dangerous. INN has worked to amass a range of discounted and pro-bono legal services, guides and resources so that our members can get help and advice when they need it most.
To help our members find pro-bono or low-cost legal help, INN has partnered with the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press, a nonprofit organization that has been helping journalists secure legal advice since 1970.
RCFP’s mission is to protect the right to gather and distribute news; to keep government accountable by ensuring access to public records, meetings and courtrooms; and to preserve the principles of free speech and unfettered press, as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In addition to expert legal advice and referrals to volunteer media counsel around the country, the Reporters Committee offers:
- A Legal Defense Hotline: Available to working journalists in any medium and media lawyers 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Amicus Briefs and Statements of Support: Both alone and in conjunction with major news and transparency organizations, the Reporters Committee files or participates in more than 20 briefs each year with the U.S. Supreme Court and in federal and state courts. It is a voice of support for the right to freely gather and disseminate information in any form.
- Publications and Resources: Available free online on topics ranging from state and federal open government laws, access to electronic records, reporters’ shield laws around the country, access to court documents and proceedings, and more.
- Rapid Responses to reporter inquiries on media-law stories.
- Regional Training Seminars to help emerging and established online investigative news sites navigate the legal issues particular to electronic newsgathering.
- Special Events Reporters Hotlines for reporters who might encounter difficulties covering events such as presidential inaugurals, the Olympics, political-party conventions and the like.
- Fellowships and Internships for the next generation of free-press reporters and lawyers. Legal fellows handle hotline calls and other queries, draft briefs and write for Reporters Committee publications.
- Niche law guides on topics ranging from FOIA appeals to American Indian law.
Emergency Legal Fund
Legal threats, and the costs associated with defending against them, can cause fledgling organizations to capsize. With the help of the McCormick Foundation, INN has built a small emergency legal fund to help reimburse some costs of retaining legal counsel. See it in action, and apply for help by contacting Denise Malan.
The INN’s Legal Best Practices Guide is designed to help nonprofit news organizations reduce their legal liability by providing sample policies to be included on organization websites, sample contracts to be used for freelancers and other third parties, and other resources available to help alleviate legal risk.
Template documents include: