My name is Mike Donoghue. I worked at the Burlington Free Press for more than 40 years. I’m vice president of the New England First Amendment Coalition.
When we talk about protecting the rights of the media, we’re really talking about protecting the rights of the citizens in this country. Journalists represent those citizens who can’t attend government meetings or can’t go to government offices to get information.
The public can’t always watch over its government. So we rely on reporters to be our eyes and ears in the community. NEFAC helps those reporters do their job.
NEFAC provides various educational seminars and training for journalists and the public. We offer fellowships to 25 journalists each fall to attend at no cost to them our annual New England First Amendment Institute, a three-day intensive investigative reporting conference. These fellows learn the latest reporting techniques from Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, leading lawyers and other top professionals. They learn how to dig deep for investigative pieces that will have a major impact on their communities.
NEFAC recently testified in support of a new Vermont law that provides First Amendment protections to high school and college journalists. These students need to learn how to ask the tough questions and where to find good sources. If they are muzzled now, how aggressive will our future watchdogs be?
We need to make sure students in Vermont can learn to be investigative journalists and are not punished for the stories they share. NEFAC is helping in that effort.
In Vermont, NEFAC has taken the lead in insisting that police videos, body cams and dash cam videos are made public as promptly as possible. There was recently a fatal shooting in a Vermont town involving police. There were questions and contradictory statements throughout the process and the public needed to know what happened. NEFAC insisted on the release of all the videos, helped the public understand how the shooting occurred and, as it was later found out, how the police acted appropriately.