The Reporters Committee for
Freedom of the Press was created in 1970 at a time when the nation's news
media faced a wave of government subpoenas asking reporters to name
One case particularly galvanized American journalists. New York Times
reporter Earl Caldwell was ordered to reveal to a federal grand jury his
sources in the Black Panther organization, threatening his independence as a
Caldwell's dilemma prompted a meeting at Georgetown University to discuss
the need to provide legal assistance to journalists when their First
Amendment rights come under fire. Among those present, or involved soon
afterwards, were J. Anthony Lukas, Murray Fromson, Fred Graham, Jack Nelson,
Ben Bradlee, Eileen Shanahan, Mike Wallace, Robert Maynard and Tom Wicker.
They formed a committee that operated part-time and on a shoestring (its
first "office" was a desk in the press room at the U.S. Supreme Court). With
support from foundations and news organizations, the founders built a staff
and began recruiting attorneys to donate their services.
Almost immediately, the Committee waded into a number of free speech
battles, intervening in court cases and fighting to keep Richard Nixon from
retaining sole custody of his presidential papers.
In the last three decades the Committee has played a role in virtually
every significant press freedom case that has come before the Supreme Court
-- from Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart to Hustler Magazine v. Falwell
-- as well as in hundreds of cases in federal and state courts.
The Committee has also emerged as a major national -- and international
-- resource in free speech issues, disseminating information in a variety of
forms, including a quarterly legal review, a bi-weekly newsletter, a 24-hour
hotline, and various handbooks on media law issues.
Academicians, state and federal agencies, and Congress regularly call on
the Committee for advice and expertise, and it has become the leading
advocate for reporters' interest in cyberspace.
Important as these activities are, the Committee's primary mission
remains serving working journalists -- 2,000 of them every year. And since
its founding, no reporter has ever paid for the Committee's help in
defending First Amendment rights. This is the incarnation of the founders'
vision and the Committee's proudest achievement.
For more information about The Reporters Committee, write to
firstname.lastname@example.org or The Reporters Committee
for Freedom of the Press, 1101 Wilson Blvd., Suite 1100, Arlington, VA