The Local Journalism Project

In its second semester in existence, the Clinic created the Local Journalism Project as a distinct initiative of the Clinic, in order to provide greater focus to the work it is doing on behalf of local and community news outlets and journalists in new York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and nearby geographies. It is now providing services t outlets and journalists in states throughout the country, including in Arizona and Texas. The Local Journalism Project works on behalf of news outlets, journalists, researchers and other newsgatherers in aid of their critical function of reporting and communicating important news and information to their communities.

The Clinic assists with crafting FOIL requests, along with pursuing litigation when access to records and proceedings is improperly denied. In addition to newsgathering advice, it provides pre-publication review of stories to help protect its clients from litigation. It defends journalists and news outlets in libel lawsuits, and threats of such suits, intended to suppress protected free speech rights.

There are many small news outlets, including those in under-served communities, that are eager to learn of legal tools that would enhance their work and allow them to conduct more investigative reporting. Part of the Clinic’s goal is to encourage news outlets to consider pursuing additional investigative pieces related to the workings of state and local government and to involve the Clinic at the outset of an investigative piece of reporting so that the legal strategy can best aid that reporting.

The Clinic recognizes that the needs of local media go beyond newsgathering and publication. Local outlets enter into commercial contracts, license material, hire employees, and must comply with regulations just like any other entity, whether non-profit or for-profit. The attorneys within the the Local Journalism Project provide counsel on a range of issues crucial to the operations of community newsrooms. The Clinic is partnering with the Cornell Entrepreneurship Clinic to provide media clients with the corporate advice they need to structure themselves for success. One of the Clinic’s goals is to provide its students with an opportunity to learn all aspects of the practice of media law.