Alumni Short

Local Journalism Project

A vital component of Cornell’s First Amendment Clinic is its effort to support journalists and media outlets in their essential work.

Law students participating in The Local Journalism Project engage in direct pro bono legal services to newsgatherers and media outlets, primarily in New York and the surrounding region. The Project seeks to aid clients in the newsgathering function by helping them obtain access to public records and meetings, defending them against efforts to interfere with or otherwise suppress their ability to report and publish the news, and litigating cases that generally advance the interests of a free press. The Project aims in particular to address the increasing void in legal representation facing local news media and independent journalists who are otherwise precluded from engaging in expensive but essential litigation to defend their rights and ability to do their jobs.

Since its inception, the Local Journalism Project:

  • Successfully represented a freelance journalist seeking access to documents regarding the manner in which the New York State Police handles sexual assault evidence collection kits, resulting in the complete production of requested documents that the agency had improperly withheld;

  • Served as co-counsel to a Vermont news organization in a lawsuit stemming from Vermont state officials’ refusal to produce documents crucial to uncovering potential misconduct in state-run programs, resulting in the complete production of the requested records; and

  • Investigates claims on behalf of a New York State local news media outlet that believes its editorials criticizing decisions by local officials have sparked retributive action against the paper.