The last several months have been trying for journalists and the First Amendment. The marginalization of the Fourth Estate, claims of fake news, the belittling of political protests and the questioning of clear truths have overwhelmed American discourse. The conversation — often led by a president who considers journalists enemies of the American people — can seem a prelude to dark days.
That’s the message Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post shared at our annual New England First Amendment Awards luncheon in February. To more than 250 reporters, editors, attorneys and journalism students, Sullivan said:
I can tell you I’ve lost some sleep over it, worried about the very survival of American democracy when one of its foundations, a free press, is already under attack.
NEFAC celebrated its tenth year of advocacy in 2016, a testament to the generosity of supporters like you. With more than 30 New England journalists and media attorneys on our board, NEFAC is on the frontline of the region’s First Amendment and freedom of information battles. With your continued support, we are training journalists and educating the public in desperately needed ways. We are protecting your freedoms and your right to know.
Last month alone, we opposed legislation in Maine that would make it more difficult to obtain public records and advocated for the retention of State House Committee meeting recordings. We called for the release of Rhode Island grand jury testimony in the 38 Studios case and testified in support of protection for student journalists in Vermont. We celebrated the right of New Hampshire residents to document their state’s voting process, a First Amendment freedom we defended in federal court.
That’s not all. We’ve been working on behalf of the First Amendment in all New England states. Here is our 2016 Annual Review providing a summary of what we are doing to prevent those dark days from arriving.
You can help.
While the circumstances Sullivan described sound bleak, she offered a sense of hope for those who value the First Amendment and the check on power our free press provides:
Most Americans know very well that just as the First Amendment protects us, we must return the framers great favor and protect it. We do that by insisting on the truth, seeking it relentlessly and standing up for those who provide it.
Stand up. For journalists. For transparency. For the First Amendment.