Protecting Journalists Pro Bono Program

Resources for journalists and news organizations

Disclaimer: We have compiled a series of resources to provide initial guidance around our three current workstreams i.e. access to public records, pre-publication review and defense against subpoenas. Please note the following legal resources and tools do not replace the legal advice of an attorney.

Factsheets

Nationally

A Reporter’s Guide to Pre-Publication Review. This guide provides a primer for journalists on common vetting principles to help them better assess the legal risks they may face when publishing an article or releasing a film and how to lower that risk - Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
First Amendment Handbook. The First Amendment Handbook provides a basic primer on the laws affecting reporters’ rights to gather and disseminate news - Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Press freedom and government transparency during COVID-19. This COVID-19 resource addresses court access, public records, open meetings, and government emergency powers amid the pandemic.
FOIA wiki. A collaborative tool on the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) - managed by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, with contributions from The FOIA Project at TRAC, MuckRock, The National Security Archive, FOIA Mapper, Open the Government
Journalist Shield Law Workshop. - This workshop for journalists provides an overview of California and federal laws that help reporters protect their confidential sources and unpublished newsgathering materials. The 90-minute session includes presentations by Aaron Field, media lawyer, Cannata O’Toole Fickes & Olson, and Victoria Baranetsky, general counsel, the Center for Investigative Reporting, along with an interview with Ryan Mac, a senior technology reporter at Buzzfeed, who was targeted by subpoenas related to his work in 2019 -.First Amendment Coalition
Subpoena/legal order tracker - US Press Freedom Tracker - Freedom of the Press Foundation and Committee to Protect Journalists
FOIA 101: Tips and Tricks to Make You a Transparency Master - Series of guides, tips and advice compiled over the years - MuckRock

State

Open Government Guide. The Open Government Guide is a complete compendium of information on every state’s open records and open meetings laws. California and Washington state’s guides can be found here and here - Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press 
Reporter’s Privilege Compendium. This guide is a complete compendium of information on the reporter’s privilege — the right not to be compelled to testify or disclose sources and information in court — in each state and federal circuit. California and Washington state’s guides can be found here and here - Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press 
California
California Public Records Act Primer (last updated in 2006) - First Amendment Coalition
Sample CPRA Request Letter - First Amendment Coalition
Sample FOIA Request Letter - First Amendment Coalition
Washington
Public Records Act - General resources and links - Washington Coalition for Open Government
Public Records Act - FAQs - Washington Coalition for Open Government
Tips for making a records request - Washington Coalition for Open Government