NEFAC REPORT | November 2017
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NEFAC provided its seventh annual New England First Amendment Institute from Oct. 29-31 at Northeastern University in Boston. Full coverage of the institute can be found here .

"Journalism is expensive and important," Brian McGrory, editor of The Boston Globe, said as he began a speech to journalism fellows at the seventh annual New England First Amendment Institute. Throughout his speech, McGrory focused on navigating the changing nature of journalism, a field he sees as "undergoing a massive transformation." [...]

"Get closer to the big story using a series of small stories; by doing smaller stories over time, you get a sort of expertise." Pulitzer Prize winner Eric Eyre, statehouse reporter for the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette-Mail, explained this strategy to those attending the New England First Amendment Institute's "Tales from the Trenches" discussion last month.

Kathleen Carroll, former executive editor and senior vice president of The Associated Press, said journalists need to reach out to their readers through investigative reporting and news collaborations. She said she thinks investigative journalism in local communities is one of the most effective ways to reach out and connect better with audiences. [...] 

Sometimes the best investigative stories are the ones that start as a hunch, according to Mike Rezendes, an investigative reporter with The Boston Globe's Spotlight team. "Listen to your hunches and listen to that voice in the back of your head that says, 'Hey, wait a minute, this doesn't seem quite right'," Rezendes said. Rezendes focused on two of the major investigative stories that he has worked on with the Globe's Spotlight team. [...]

"When you take time to build a relationship with someone . . . and you care about getting the story right, they become invested in your story . . . When you are willing to be human, people actually trust us," said Wesley Lowery, a national reporter with The Washington Post, during the seventh annual New England First Amendment Institute.   [...]



Jane Mayer, an investigative journalist at The New Yorker who began her career in Vermont, will receive the New England First Amendment Coalition's 2018 Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award. The award is given each year to an individual who has promoted, defended or advocated for the First Amendment throughout his or her career. A Yale University alumna, Mayer first worked as a journalist for two small weekly newspapers in Vermont, The Weathersfield Weekly and The Black River Tribune, before moving to the daily Rutland Herald.

Michael Donoghue Freedom of Information Award
The Freedom of Information Award is given each year to a New England 

February 23, 2018 
12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel

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 Form]

Antonia Orfield Citizenship Award
The Citizenship 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 Form]

The brief was submitted on behalf of NEFAC, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association and the New England Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. It explains the press access issues involved in a federal court case brought by an individual who planned to participate in an Aug. 19 rally but claims he was prevented by police from doing so. Boston officials in August prevented all members of the press from accessing an area of the Common where a controversial group of speakers assembled, a restriction the coalition and other organizations say is unconstitutional. 
The New England First Amendment Coalition praises the Providence Police Department for promptly releasing body camera footage showing the recent fatal shooting of a Rhode Island man as he rammed his pickup truck into other vehicles on Interstate 95. The coalition, however, criticizes the lack of transparency within the State Police Department, which has offered little information on its involvement in the shooting.  [...] 


Short Answer: It depends (my favorite two words as a lawyer). Fuller Answer: Isolated heckles by an individual are protected speech under the First Amendment. But an intentional and sustained effort to disrupt a lawful public assembly by heckling the speaker is unlawful in many states - and it should be.  [...]


The open government coalition ACCESS/RI - of which the New England First Amendment Coalition is a member - wrote a letter to East Greenwich, R.I., Town Council President Suzanne McGee Cienki asking her to cancel a recent meeting. ACCESS/RI believes the agenda for the meeting, specifically the item to ratify retroactively "all" the decisions of the town manager, violates the state's Open Meeting Act requirement for public notice. That agenda item is a case of the council thumbing its nose at the public's right to know what action the council is taking, the coalition argued.  [...] 


I recently wrote  an article for CommonWealth magazine in which I report that Mass. Attorney General Maura Healey ruled that the governor is not subject to the Massachusetts public records law.  The Massachusetts public records law states that "executive offices" are covered by the statute.   [...]


For nearly two decades, the Connecticut Public Affairs Network (CPAN) has operated CT-N, Connecticut' s version of C-SPAN, providing neutral, unbiased coverage of all  three co-equal branches of Connecticut state government.  Now, due to an abject failure of leadership in the General Assembly, CT-N may shut down.   [...] 

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            Boston Common Demonstrations
            Governor's Office, Public Records

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

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