New England First Amendment Coalition
April 2021
NEFAC honored this month individuals who have promoted and defended the First Amendment throughout New England. During its annual awards ceremony, the coalition presented the Stephen Hamblett Award, the Michael Donoghue Freedom of Information Award and the Antonia Orfield Citizenship Award. Learn more.
Full Program
Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award — Yamiche Alcindor

Q/A with Hamblett Award Recipient Yamiche Alcindor
Michael Donoghue FOI Award — The Bangor Daily News
Antonia Orfield Citizenship Award — Jeanne Kempthorne
Special Recognition — Prof. Marianne Salcetti and Keene State Students
The bill that would require news organizations to publish updates to certain stories and limit the use of mugshots in reporting. LD 923 — similar to failed legislation in New Hampshire and Rhode Island last year and a new bill in New Hampshire earlier this year — is “not only unconstitutional, it’s also unwise and undemocratic,” wrote NEFAC Executive Director Justin Silverman in written testimony submitted April 23 to the Maine State Committee on the Judiciary. [...]

Additional Coverage

Throughout 2020, the Coalition for Women in Journalism (CFWIJ) identified 716 miscellaneous attacks worldwide on female reporters — more than double than the year prior. The first months of 2021 foreshadow another demanding year ahead.
With newsrooms often lacking effective support systems, women journalists are regularly belittled, have their professionalism questioned and endure mistreatment strictly based on their gender. By attending this class taught by Kiran Nazish of CFWIJ, you will learn about:

• The types of threats currently facing women journalists.
• How to protect yourself from online trolling.
• How to stay safe at protests and large demonstrations.
Previous Classes
Data Cleaning 101
Data Cleaning 102
Newsroom Subpoenas
The New England First Amendment Coalition led a conversation on how local newsrooms are reevaluating the newsworthiness of old stories in response to concerns about individual privacy interests.

The discussion was part of the New England Newspaper & Press Association‘s 2021 spring convention. Speakers include Sarah D. Collins, a journalist and expert on the "right to be forgotten"; Dan MacLeod, editor at the Bangor Daily News; and Jason Tuohey, editor of

Coalition Joins Amicus Brief Explaining Historical Significance of Records
The New England First Amendment Coalition and media groups across the country argued for access to the records of Boston grand juries charged with investigating the disclosure of the Pentagon Papers nearly 50 years ago.

The groups filed an amicus brief — drafted by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press — in Lepore v. United States, a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

The case involves Jill Lepore, a historian and staff writer for The New Yorker, who in 2018 requested access to records from two grand juries convened in Boston to investigate the Pentagon Papers leak in 1971, one of the most consequential unauthorized disclosures of government information to the news media in history. [...]
Why Are Grand Jury Proceedings Secret? Lin Weeks, a staff attorney at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, discusses with NEFAC's Justin Silverman why grand jury testimony is typically secret and why an exception should be made for the Pentagon Papers.
Reporter Colman M. Herman writes:

During Charlie Baker’s successful 2014 campaign for Massachusetts governor, I asked a top aide whether Baker would support legislation that would subject the governor’s office to the state’s public records law. I got smoke and mirrors for a response.

”Charlie has already proposed serious initiatives to make state government more transparent and will reexamine the practices regarding public records requests when elected,” Tim Buckley told me at the time. [...]
NEFAC’s Lia Ernst, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Vermont, explains why private entities performing essential government services should be subject to the Vermont public records law. Courts throughout the country already apply their state’s respective public records statutes to certain private entities, explained NEFAC and others in an amicus brief drafted by Ernst and her colleagues at the ACLU.
Massachusetts is “very much toward the bottom on transparency,” said Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. “There just doesn’t seem to be much political appetite to change this culture of secrecy and open up the Legislature at least to more scrutiny and more transparency.” . . .

“We’re dealing with a lot of self-interest here,” Silverman said. “The very people that are going to be scrutinized more and perhaps criticized more are the very people that we’re counting on to change the law to make that happen.” [...]

Regional / National

U.S. Supreme Court, Student Speech

Government Speech, Social Media



Alex Jones, Defamation



Court Records


New Hampshire

Police Records, 'Laurie List'



Rhode Island

Internal Affairs Reports

Panhandling, First Amendment

Political Speech



Criminal Records of Minors