My name is Tom Fiedler. I’m the dean of the College of Communication at Boston University and I’m the president of the New England First Amendment Coalition.
The New England First Amendment Coalition exists for the sole purpose of supporting an informed and engaged electorate and I can’t emphasize those two words enough.
Informed because information is the cornerstone of our democracy. If people do not have accurate information — not alternative facts, but real facts and real information — then they would not be able to participate fully in our democracy.
And engaged in that if our citizens do not have the ability to engage with government at the local level, all the way on up to the congressional level and even to the White House, then again, our democracy wouldn’t be able to function.
In order for the NEFAC to be successful in really being the watchdog for such an important aspect of democracy, we clearly need the support of the public. It requires the support of the public and the people who are concerned about access and the First Amendment.
Journalism exists for the sole purpose of providing information to voters so they can make informed decisions. I think again it’s critically important for the New England First Amendment Coalition to be fighting this fight, advocating on behalf of citizens and on behalf of ensuring that accurate, truthful information remains available to people as they go about holding their government in check.
Among the many things that NEFAC does is we provide training, a workshop for journalists throughout New England, most of them from small news organizations that really don’t have the funding to invest in education for their staff. We provide that training with some really excellent, well known, internationally recognized journalists for three days at no cost to the reporters who attend. Our belief is that it helps ensure that the citizens, the people who are touched by those news organizations are getting the best information that they possibly can.
I like to place emphasis on the word coalition as part of our name: New England First Amendment Coalition. We really are unique in that we are made up of several different disciplines. We have journalists of course. We have lawyers, particularly lawyers that advocate in the First Amendment and government access area. And we have citizens who are actively engaged with their government.