NEFAC REPORT | January 2018
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The New England First Amendment Coalition is pleased to announce the election of Karen Bordeleau, former executive editor of The Providence Journal, as its new president. Bordeleau assumed the position on Jan. 1 and succeeds Tom Fiedler, dean of Boston University's College of Communications, who will continue to serve on NEFAC's Board of Directors.  [...] 

Harding has been a member of NewsCenter 5 for more than 25 years. He joined WCVB in 1988 as weekend sports anchor and reporter. He took over as co-anchor of the EyeOpener newscast in 2000.  Harding is the recipient of numerous awards including two Boston/New England Emmy awards for best Anchor-News and a first place Massachusetts Broadcasters Association Sound Bites award for On-Air Personality, among others.  [...]

Wallack will be honored for his body of work from last year that included stories about online accessibility to criminal records, transparency within the MBTA and the overuse of certain public record law exemptions to keep information secret. His reporting led to a lawsuit by The Boston Globe to compel the release of mugshots and arrest reports and he exposed the reluctance of state officials to share details of investigations that have grown cold. [...] 

Under the supervision of Ken Tangvik, a director at the Hyde Square Task Force, the group of teenagers were investigating ways to pay for a new recreation center and ice skating rink in their neighborhood. Through public record requests, the teens found that a state mandate had been ignored for more than 20 years. The city, they determined, was owed $14 million, enough money to cover the cost of building a new rec center and rink. [...] 

The  New England First Amendment Coalition co-sponsored a panel discussion on free speech, exploring First Amendment principles and how constitutional freedoms can be protected.  The program at the Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier, Vt., was also sponsored by  the  League of Women Voters of Vermont . Speakers included NEFAC's Lia Ernst and Michael Donoghue.  David Moats, an author and Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer at the  Rutland Herald  moderated.


The New England First Amendment Coalition recently called on Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo to protect press rights in any legislation she introduces to address revenge pornography. In a Jan. 18 letter, NEFAC - as well as the ACLU of Rhode Island, Media Coalition and the Rhode Island Press Association - asked Raimondo to only support legislation that adequately protects news organizations. NEFAC regularly opposed efforts in Rhode Island last year to criminalize revenge pornography at the expense of First Amendment rights.  [...]


The announcement follows several recent surveys that show a diminishing understanding among students and the general public about constitutional rights and the need for an independent press. The Annenberg Public Policy Center, for example, found in September that more than a third of Americans are unable to name a single right guaranteed by the First Amendment. There is also an increasing hostility to free speech at many colleges.  [...]


Many public records such as  real estate documents and  police logs are conveniently found online. But most New Englanders in need of judicial records must still travel to individual courthouses, submit requests to a clerk, and then scan or copy the pages they receive on site for future use elsewhere.  It's a dated system and change, if any, is coming slowly.   [...] 


The open government coalition ACCESS/RI - of which the New England First Amendment Coalition is a member - recently testified in opposition to several proposed revisions to the Rhode Island Department of Safety regulations on public records. ACCESS/RI provided suggestions that would broaden access to records under the state's Access to Public Records Act and limit the amount of time allowed for disclosure. Suggestions include limiting the extension for responses to public record requests to up to 20 days for good cause and removing the "case-by-case balancing test" when privacy interests are at stake.  [...]

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

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