Open Meetings and Public Comment | NEFAC is continuing its series on state open meeting laws with new classes on public commentary. The classes will feature a local attorney who will explain their respective state law on public comments during open meetings. Each lesson will address common challenges to the public’s right to speak at open meetings and will help clarify when and how government officials can restrict the speech of those in attendance. Learn more and register.
Rhode Island: How Newsrooms Respond to Executive Session Secrecy | NEFAC’s Tim White, an investigative reporter for WPRI in Providence, shares stories of government agencies holding executive sessions, secret meetings that are allowed only under certain circumstances. White describes how and his colleagues responded to these meetings and continued their reporting. This lesson is part of NEFAC’s ongoing educational series on open meeting and public record laws.
Department of Environmental Protection Targeted for ‘Egregious’ Open Meeting Violation | Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, recently told The New Bedford Light that he wasn’t aware of any exceptions in the law that would apply to the stakeholder group. “Just because it’s this ‘ad hoc’ committee, as they describe it, doesn’t make it any less of a public body serving a public purpose,” he explained.
Making Democracy Reporting Part of Your Beat | Coverage of democracy-related issues has found its way across all parts of the newsroom, overlapping with many of the beats assigned to journalists. By viewing this lesson, you’ll learn (1) how to strengthen your beat coverage with democracy-related stories (2) potential sources for stories on topics relevant to our democracy and (3) specific democracy-related story ideas that you can immediately begin working on.
NEFAC, Maine Newsrooms Protest Excessive Fees for Judicial Records | The fees are a violation of state court rules and the First Amendment, NEFAC and Maine media organizations explained. “These fees are excessive on their face in relation to the actual incremental cost of providing public access to documents that are already available over the internet to litigants, and they impair the ability of journalists to report on matters of public concern,” they wrote.
Teaching the World About First Amendment Rights | NEFAC President Gregory V. Sullivan will meet with a group of Egyptian diplomats next month to discuss the First Amendment and freedom of information laws in the United States. The presentation is part of NEFAC’s First Amendment and the Free Press as well as a U.S. Department of State-funded civics program coordinated by WorldBoston, a local non-profit organization. Learn more.
After Three Reporters Turned Away From Hearings, Vermont Newsrooms Raise Concerns About Statehouse Access | “They need to be there to witness what happens before that livestreaming starts and what occurs after it ends,” NEFAC’s Justin Silverman told the VTDigger. “Journalists need the opportunity to follow up with legislators in-person, face-to-face and ask difficult questions that could otherwise be evaded.”
NEFAC Opens Journalism Mentorship Program to All New England States | Reporters, editors and producers can apply to be paired with a veteran journalist with relevant expertise. Mentorship focus areas include community storytelling, public records and open meetings, use of data in reporting, navigating the industry as a bilingual reporter, building relationships as a journalist of color, audio production and mining stories from beats.
NEFAC Leading First Amendment, Right-to-Know Classes at Loeb School | The New England First Amendment Coalition is leading three classes for the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications. The classes will be held online and are free to attend. The classes are: (1) Common Exceptions to Free Speech (2) The Fundamentals of the First Amendment and Your Right to Know and (3) NEFAC.ORG: A First Amendment and Open Government Toolbox. Register here.
Maura Healey Promised to Bring Transparency to an Opaque Governor’s Office. It’s Not Clear If She’ll Follow Through | Gov. Healey gets credit for signaling a break from her predecessors. But NEFAC’s Justin Silverman tells The Boston Globe that Healey “hasn’t provided any details, she hasn’t shared with us any steps that she’s going to take to make that a reality,” and “until she does, until she puts more action into those words, it’s just a promise unfulfilled.”
Educators: First Amendment, Journalism and Open Government Resources Available | NEFAC recently visited South Hadley (Mass.) High School to discuss the First Amendment with journalism students. The coalition provides educators a variety of resources to incorporate into their classroom lessons each academic year. The materials and services we offer address a range of First Amendment topics, journalism skills and freedom of information laws. Learn more.
NEFAC, Media Groups: Long-Term Government Surveillance Chills First Amendment Freedoms | “Under the rule that still governs in the First Circuit, investigators could station a permanent, never-blinking eye with an indefinite memory outside any sensitive location on bare curiosity — on the off-chance, say, of catching the next Neil Sheehan visiting the next Daniel Ellsberg’s apartment,” explained NEFAC and fellow amici, referencing the late reporter and whistleblower.
NEFAC Begins 2023 with New Leadership and Expanded Executive Committee | Attorney Gregory V. Sullivan, long-time media counsel and First Amendment professor, will serve as NEFAC’s president. Executive Committee members also include Maggie Mulvihill of Boston University, Topher Hamblett of The Foundation for West Africa, NEFAC Executive Director Justin Silverman, Shirley Leung and Emily Sweeney of The Boston Globe, and Carlos Virgen of The Day.
NEFAC, Press Groups to Mass. Governor-Elect Healey: Subject Governor’s Office to Public Records Law | Massachusetts is one of only two states where the governor has a blanket exemption from the public records law, either by statute or through practice. That is true even though it is not clear that the legislature ever intended to create such an exemption. “You have the singular opportunity to reverse 25 years of an ill-conceived policy,” the groups wrote to Healey.
A Broken System: Why It Pays to Be Opaque in Rhode Island | NEFAC’s Tim White, an investigative journalist at WPRI in Providence, explains a recent ruling by the state Attorney General’s Office and how it reflects broader concerns about the Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act. “The system is broken,” White writes. “APRA needs a robust overhaul to tilt the pendulum back toward the public.” Read full commentary. Learn more about the state’s public records law.
NEFAC Sounds Alarm Over Proposed Right-to-Know Law Fees | Obtaining governmental records through a right-to-know request in New Hampshire would become more costly under a proposed bill headed to lawmakers next year. “The government has a duty to be as responsive as they possibly can be,” NEFAC President Gregory V. Sullivan told the New Hampshire Bulletin. “I see this bill as a roadblock to that accountability.”
NEFAC Newsroom Training: Defamation and Privacy | NEFAC President Gregory V. Sullivan recently taught a class on libel and invasion of privacy to reporters at Connecticut Public and with the New England News Collaborative. Our coalition provides workshops and instruction to news organizations throughout the region. We offer a long list of courses for you and your colleagues — and can work with you to develop new classes that meet your newsroom needs.