Meet NEFAC’s 2023 New England First Amendment Institute Journalism Fellows | Now in its 13th year, the Institute provides support and training for New England journalists and gives them the tools they need to become more accomplished investigative reporters. The Institute — provided at no cost to those who attend — features many of the country’s elite reporters, editors and media attorneys. About 300 journalists have attended the Institute since its began in 2011.

30 Minute Skills: Data Visualization 102 | This is the second lesson on data visualization using Flourish, a free tool helpful to those working with large datasets and driving home the visual elements of a story. By viewing this lesson, you’ll learn (1) how to navigate Flourish and use its basic functions (2) how to develop simple visualizations such as charts and maps and (3) how to create a searchable database using the software. View all 30 Minute Skills lessons here.

Online Access to State Court Documents | NEFAC is continuing its freedom of information lessons with new classes on state court documents and hearings. The lessons will be taught by local journalists who will provide step-by-step instruction on how to access judicial records online. This latest round of classes will be provided by NEFAC with support from SPJ New England, the Rhode Island Foundation and the New England Society of News Editors.

NEFAC, Media Organizations to U.S. Supreme Court: Live Audio Streaming of Oral Arguments Should Be Made Permanent Practice | “Live audio of Supreme Court proceedings unequivocally benefits the public and the press,” wrote NEFAC and 62 media organizations. “Short of providing live video of proceedings, permanent live audio of the Supreme Court’s proceedings is the best way to keep the public informed and engaged with respect to its operations.”

NEFAI 2023 Keynote Speakers Announced | Joining the 13th annual Institute are Eric Meyer, publisher and editor of the Marion County Record, the weekly newspaper in Kansas that recently made national headlines when local sheriffs raided its newsroom; Sisi Wei, editor-in-chief of The Markup, a nonprofit, investigative newsroom; and Brian Rosenthal, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter at The New York Times and the president of Investigative Reporters and Editors.

NEFAC Files Amicus Brief Urging Mass. High Court to Protect the Public from SLAPP Suits | “The court has a great opportunity to recalibrate its approach to the anti-SLAPP Law,” said Jeffrey J. Pyle, an attorney at Prince Lobel in Boston who drafted the brief on behalf of NEFAC. “The statute protects legitimate petitioning of the government, full stop. We are hopeful the court will render a decision that applies the law as written.”

NEFAC, ACLU of New Hampshire Express Concern Over Proposed Right to Know Ombudsman Rules | Thomas F. Kehr was appointed as the first New Hampshire Right to Know Ombudsman in January and recently released a set of rules that would govern how his office will operate. Some of these rules, however, are inconsistent with the state’s Right to Know Law and are overly restrictive, NEFAC and the ACLU explained in a letter to Kehr.

NEFAC Co-Sponsors Black Media Symposium at Boston University | The New England First Amendment Coalition is proud to co-sponsor Black Media: Reflecting on the Past and Reimagining the Future, a day-long symposium next month at Boston University. The Sept. 22 program will highlight Black media professionals and their innovative work in journalism, among other industries. NEFAC’s sponsorship is one of many ways the coalition is supporting local journalists.

NEFAC, Vt. Open Government Advocates Recommend Changes to Court Records System | Vermont currently uses Odyssey software to provide online access but various policy and design decisions by judiciary officials have made the platform challenging to use. “Our conversations with journalists and transparency advocates in Vermont have highlighted continued issues with the poorly designed system,” explained NEFAC and other open government advocates.

NEFAC Explains First Amendment Law Following Neo-Nazi Rally | As offensive as this speech may be, explained NEFAC’s Justin Silverman, the First Amendment prevents government from censoring it based on the message alone. Hate speech can be criminalized only when it becomes incitement or other unprotected category of speech. The law works this way to protect everyone from government censoring speech simply because it doesn’t like what’s being said.

Coalition to Lead First Amendment Workshop for Indo-Pacific, Central Asian Diplomats | “Part of NEFAC’s mission is to expand the public’s understanding of the First Amendment not just in our region, but throughout the world,” said Justin Silverman, the coalition’s executive director. “This program allows us to reach citizens of other countries and teach them the value of First Amendment freedoms and the public’s right to know about government.”

NEFAC, ACLU of Rhode Island Denounce Removal of Speaker at Warwick City Council Meeting | During the public comment period of the Council’s July 17 meeting, a Warwick resident was barred from speaking and escorted out of the meeting because he sought to comment on a Providence Journal article involving the Council’s vice president. The article detailed allegations against the official and her role in a controversial acquisition of land.

NEFAC Stresses Importance of Transparency During Rhode Island Open Government Summit | “I wouldn’t be able to tell the stories that I did tell about corruption, cronyism and simply explaining the inner workings of government without your help,” said NEFAC’s Mike Stanton, a former journalist at the Providence Journal, during the summit’s opening remarks. “These types of stories are critical to our understanding of government and holding those in power accountable.”

Introducing Civic Documenters: Empowering Communities to Strengthen Local News Coverage | Through a five-week training program, CivDoc aims to demystify local government, educate about open meeting and public record laws, and equip a select group of New Hampshire residents with the skills necessary to document local government proceedings. Civic Documenters will then collaborate with newsrooms on an ongoing basis to help with local news stories.

NEFAC, Mass. Transparency Advocates Testify in Support of Guaranteed Hybrid Open Meetings | Since early 2020, public bodies have been able to carry out their responsibilities in person, remotely, or in a hybrid manner because of pandemic emergency rules. The proposed legislation would guarantee maximum public access by requiring public bodies to conduct hybrid meetings, rather than allowing each body to choose whatever format they prefer.