NEFAC REPORT | December 2018
More than one-third of all Americans can’t name a single liberty provided to us by the First Amendment. We aim to change that distressing statistic for the better.

There is a hunger for civics and legal education throughout the region — and we are just beginning to meet this need. We want to double our efforts next year and visit 50 sites from Bangor to Bridgeport, Manchester to Montpelier, Provincetown to Pawtucket.

Will you help us by donating today?
NEFAC will honor on Feb. 15 in Boston individuals who have promoted and defended the First Amendment throughout the region. Learn more about the awards luncheon, purchase tickets and nominate award recipients  here .

Janet Wu, award-winning journalist and co-host of WCVB-Boston‘s “On The Record,” will emcee the 2019 New England First Amendment Awards luncheon. Wu, a member of NEFAC’s Board of Directors, served as WCVB’s NewsCenter 5 Massachusetts political reporter for more than 30 years. During that time, Wu was a key member of WCVB’s political unit and received a prestigious Emmy at the 2015 Emmy Awards presented by the National Academy of Televisions Arts and Sciences Boston/New England chapter.

During the ninth annual awards luncheon, NEFAC will honor individuals who have advocated for the First Amendment and the public’s right to know. Stephen Engelberg, editor-in-chief of ProPublica, will receive the Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award, given annually to an individual who has promoted, defended or advocated for the First Amendment throughout his or her career. [...]

Stephen Engelberg, an investigative journalist and editor-in-chief of ProPublica, will receive the New England First Amendment Coalition‘s 2019 Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award. Named after the late publisher of The Providence Journal, the Hamblett Award is given each year to an individual who has promoted, defended or advocated for the First Amendment throughout his or her career.

Engelberg was the founding managing editor of ProPublica from 2008 to 2012, and became editor-in-chief in 2013. He worked previously as managing editor of The Oregonian in Portland, Oregon, where he supervised investigative projects and news coverage. Before that, he worked for 18 years at The New York Times as an editor and reporter, founding the paper’s investigative unit and serving as a reporter in Washington, D.C., and Warsaw. [...]


The award is given each year to a New England journalist or team of journalists for a body of work from the previous calendar year that protects or advances the public’s right to know under federal or state law. Preference is given to those who overcome significant official resistance. [...] [ Nomination Materials ]

The award is given to an individual from one of the New England states who has fought for information crucial to the public’s understanding of its community or what its government is doing — or not doing — on its behalf. The candidate should have shown tenacity or bravery in the face of difficulty while obtaining information that the public has a right to know. [...] [ Nomination Materials ] 

TIME chose the right time to name four journalists and a newspaper as the magazine’s “Person of the Year.” This is an entirely appropriate salute to journalists who have the temerity to speak truth to power while facing arrest and even beheadings at the hands of governments unwilling to tolerate criticism.

I wish that TIME had gone further and honored journalists in other democracies, such as Turkey, Hungary and Venezuela, who are under intense pressure to parrot the party line of powerful government executives. Those countries are seeing a decrease in objective news coverage and thus, as an unsurprising result, a less informed citizenry. [...]

NEFAC recently argued against indiscriminately sealing court records, explaining that the First Amendment right to those records plays a “fundamental part in ensuring public confidence in the judicial system.”

“Members of the press regularly rely upon court documents to keep the public apprised of cases within the public interest, as well as to facilitate public monitoring of the judicial system,” NEFAC and other First Amendment advocates argued in a Dec. 17 amicus brief. [...]

NEFAC recently demanded the release of Massachusetts birth and marriage records in aggregate form, addressing unwarranted concerns of privacy and touting the benefits ‘big data’ can provide.

“The public benefit in releasing the records is considerable,” NEFAC and other open government advocates argued in a Dec. 21 amicus brief.

“This dataset can be used to facilitate government accountability, gain new insights into systemic questions about the welfare of Massachusetts citizens, and inform localized news reporting by news outlets of all sizes,” they wrote. [...]

NEFAC Vice President Michael Donoghue recently received the “Friend of Broadcasting Award” from the Vermont Association of Broadcasters for his work on behalf of the coalition and the state’s press association.

Donoghue is a long-time board member of NEFAC and has led the Vermont Press Association for about 40 years. He also wrote for the Burlington Free Press for 47 years. The Vermont Association of Broadcasters honored Donoghue during its annual Hall of Fame Awards banquet on Dec. 1. He is only the third person honored by the VAB with the award since 2007. [...]




Meriden Schools, Open Meetings Law



Public Officials, Social Media



Secret Recording of Police, First Amendment



Criminal Defamation

Political Sign Regulations




Student Journalism

Vulgarity, First Amendment


Major Supporters and Contributors to the 
New England First Amendment Coalition include: