Most of the coverage of struggles in local news has focused on their revenue and changing business model. However, along with those issues, local newsrooms are facing new legal threats and challenges, just at the moment when they have fewer resources to fight First Amendment battles.
Today, we are announcing a new fund designed to support legal clinics at universities around the country that focus on strengthening and defending the first amendment, media access, and transparency. These clinics combine the skills of talented law students with legal scholars and practicing lawyers to take on legal challenges both local and national. Their university affiliations mean that they are geographically diverse, with the potential to cover areas that are comparatively isolated, while educating and uplifting the next generation of first amendment and transparency lawyers.
Democracy Fund has partnered with the Klarman Family Foundation and the Heising-Simons Foundation to launch the Legal Clinics Fund at the Miami Foundation and applications open today. The fund is looking for proposals from clinics that would benefit from increased capacity and infrastructure support, are pursuing a collaborative project, or are seeking to experiment with their model.
Applications are due June 7, 2019. Click here for more information and to apply.
There is a unique opportunity right now to invest in strengthening these legal clinics and building the networks between them in ways that buttress their ability to be a strong force for First Amendment litigation and a critical legal resource for journalists. We believe the fund can help achieve that goal, and we are committed to providing multi-year funding to grantees so that they have time to iterate, grow, and expand their impact, and so that the fund has the ability to engage in a robust evaluation and learning practice.
The needs of a free press are rapidly changing as the challenges facing it have grown and become more aggressive. We’ve written about the need for a modern conception of press freedom, and the role we believe we have to play in helping to meet the needs of the field. We believe that legal clinics can provide a new backbone for legal support around the country and are excited to expand their capacity to fight First Amendment battles on all our behalf.