NEFAC REPORT | November 2019
We Need Your Help: Two Ways You Can Defend Our Free Press and Right to Know
Members of the NEFAC Board of Directors are reaching into their wallets to match the first $7,000 in donations made on Dec. 3. That means your $50 donation becomes $100. Your $100 donation becomes $200. You get the idea. This is a special 24-hour opportunity to raise money for NEFAC programming, such as journalism training and civics education. Please keep NEFAC in mind this Tuesday.
As the holiday shopping season officially kicks off, you can help raise money for our coalition by shopping through the Amazon Smile program. Everything Amazon offers is available on its foundation's site, but a percentage of all sales will be donated to NEFAC. Please start your holiday shopping here or visit .

New England First Amendment Coalition Executive Director Justin Silverman joins NewsCycle host Alicia Preston to discuss the right to free speech and if that right is under attack. Also featured on the program are Gary Dinges, Director of National Content and Video for GateHouse Media, and Mary Zahran, op/ed writer for the Fayetteville Observer.


NEFAC Continues Tour of New England Journalism Schools, College Campuses
Our coalition is committed to helping the next generation of journalist watchdogs. We regularly visit campuses throughout New England to discuss the First Amendment and the public's right to know about government.

This month we visited Endicott College in Beverly, Mass., and the University of Connecticut.

If you would like to schedule a speaker for your classroom, please email

The New England First Amendment Coalition and 26 journalism and open government groups recently sent a letter to every member of Congress calling for support of unimpeded communication with journalists for all federal employees.

“It is essential to public welfare and democracy that this issue is addressed. Not allowing experts to speak freely to reporters is authoritarian and keeps sources from explaining a variety of things that are the public’s business,” according to the letter which was drafted by the Society of Professional Journalists. [...]

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is dragging her feet big time in a matter involving my efforts to obtain copies of racial and gender complaints filed by employees of the Boston Water and Sewer Commission against the commission.

When the sewer commission refused to produce the responsive records and only provided a skeletal summary of the 26 cases involved, I filed an appeal in November 2018 with the supervisor of public records in the secretary of state’s office. It was to be the first of three successful appeals in this matter. [...]

Have a public records story you would like to share? Email with your experience trying to obtain information through a state public records law.

Since January 2018, NEFAC has hosted programs or provided presentations at more than 60 locations throughout the region.

Our First Amendment and the Free Press series is bringing some of the region's most respected journalists, attorneys and academics to classrooms, campuses and local community centers.

This month we visited Fitchburg and Pepperell, Mass.; Rockland, Maine; and Providence.

We're helping to educate citizens about the value of journalism and strengthen the trust communities have in their local newsrooms. Please email for more information.

The awards will be presented at NEFAC’s 10th annual New England First Amendment Awards luncheon on February 7 in Boston. All ticket proceeds to benefit First Amendment and journalism education in New England.

Michael Donoghue Freedom of Information Award

The FOI 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.

Antonia Orfield Citizenship Award

The award is given to an individual from one of the six 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.

Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said public boards should have a policy to have public comment. “If citizens find that these rules are too restrictive for them to voice their concerns, then these rules should be reconsidered,” Silverman said.
The policy held by many Vermont town clerks is concerning to some public records advocates, including Justin Silverman, the executive director of the Massachusetts-based New England First Amendment Coalition, who said that establishing a fee for photographing land records — when it’s free to look at those same records — sets up a barrier between the public and their right to know.
Journalism Students Put Mass. Public Records Law to the Test Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said in an email interview that no one should be asked to identify themselves in order to inspect records on site, as was the case in Cambridge and Somerville.



Offensive Speech, UConn



Student Speech



Free Speech, Suicide Coercion



Right to Know Law, Privacy




Public Record Fees

Transparency Tour