NEFAC REPORT | June 2019
Why support the New England First Amendment Coalition? Because freedom of the press is a cornerstone of American democracy protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. And it’s under attack. But we’re fighting back. We’re the region’s leading advocate for the First Amendment. And now — more than ever — we need your support. Please help us reach our $25,000 spring fundraiser goal by making a donation today.

The ninth annual institute will be held from Sept. 22-24 at Northeastern University in Boston, Mass.

The New England First Amendment Coalition provides the tuition-free, three-day investigative journalism institute each year for 25 working journalists within the region.

It includes workshops and presentations featuring some of the country’s most elite investigative reporters, editors and media attorneys. [...]

The New England First Amendment Coalition salutes the staff of The Mercury, a student-run high school newspaper at Bellows Free Academy-St. Albans (Vt.), for recently helping its local school board update the district’s student expression policy.

NEFAC served as a consultant to the staff and testified earlier this month in favor of the students’ proposed revisions. [...]


NEFAC Provides First Amendment, Free Press Presentation to International Delegation
Elizabeth Ritvo, a member of NEFAC's Board of Directors and an attorney at Brown Rudnick in Boston, presented earlier this month to a group of journalists from 20 countries including Costa Rica, Kosovo, Poland and Singapore.

NEFAC provides First Amendment education to international audiences through WorldBoston, a local non-profit organization. The coalition previously presented to a delegation of Canadian public officials interested in learning about U.S. constitutional law and civil liberties as well as a group of Iraqi citizens.


NEFAC Leads Database Analysis Training for Hearst Connecticut Media Group Journalists

The New England First Amendment Coalition provided Hearst journalists a four-hour training on database analysis and reporting earlier this month. Led by Brooke Williams, an associate professor at Boston University and a frequent instructor at NEFAC workshops, the training focused on how to effectively access public data and create innovative ways to share that data with readers. The Hearst Connecticut Media Group is a major supporter of NEFAC.

The New England First Amendment Coalition is pleased to announce Cambrea Beller and Matt Lacey, students at New England Law | Boston, as summer fellows for the coalition.

Beller and Lacey, both rising second-year law students, will be assisting in a variety of projects and initiatives to help strengthen the coalition’s advocacy efforts in New England. [...]

After calls for disclosure by the New England First Amendment Coalition and other transparency advocates, the Vermont State Police recently ended more than two weeks of secrecy and provided the name of a teen driver involved in a fatal crash last month.

“While the state police deserve credit for ultimately releasing the name,” said Michael Donoghue, NEFAC’s first vice president, “the initial secrecy was unreasonably prolonged and unwarranted.” [...]

Additional Coverage


NEFAC's First Amendment Conversation Series Rolls Through Southern New England
NEFAC offers discussions on journalism and the First Amendment as part of its Featured Speaker Program, launched in January 2018 to help increase First Amendment education in high schools, college classrooms and community centers.

Since that time, the coalition has provided more than 40 public presentations and First Amendment programs to hundreds of citizens, most recently in Dartmouth, Shrewsbury and Sharon, Mass.; and in Providence and Cranston, R.I. Support this program at .

Additional Coverage

A delegation of NEFAC representatives met this month with Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea to discuss the coalition's concerns about legislation that would limit public access to certain voter registration information.

Under House Bill 5925, citizens would only have access to the full birth dates of voters by using a state computer in the Secretary of State's office. NEFAC believes this limitation would pose significant challenges to journalists who have previously been able to obtain that data and use it remotely. Learn more here .

Additional Coverage


When I was at the State Transportation Building in Boston recently, I noticed that Emerson College was occupying a large office on the second floor of the building, which is owned by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

I asked William Doyle, MassDOT’s public records lawyer, for a copy of the lease between DOT and Emerson.

“MassDOT does not have any agreement with Emerson College relative to their space at the State Transportation Building,” Doyle wrote back to me. “Accordingly, we are closing our file.” [...]

Radically Rural, the annual two-day summit focused on issues and opportunities in small cities and towns, opens Sept. 19 and is expected to attract 800 people from the Monadnock Region, the Northeast and throughout the country.

The Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship and The Keene Sentinel partner to present Radically Rural, which provides a uniquely rural point-of-view for community-building, news coverage, entrepreneurship and economic development. Radically Rural includes program tracks on entrepreneurship, arts and culture, community journalism, Main Streets and downtowns, working lands and renewable energy. [...]


U.S. Supreme Court

Federal FOIA

Offensive Speech, Trademarks

Religious Symbols, Public Land

First Amendment, Private Media

Speech, Retaliatory Arrests

Free Speech, Higher Education



Public Records Exemptions



Internet Privacy