PLATINUM2024

REPORTERS COMMITTEE FOR FREEDOM OF THE PRESS

Preserving our free press.

aka The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press   |   Washington, DC   |  www.rcfp.org

Mission

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) is the first and only national organization whose sole purpose is to provide pro bono legal services to journalists. Our mission is to protect the right to gather and distribute the news; to keep government accountable by ensuring access to public records, meetings and courtrooms; and to preserve the principles of free speech and unfettered press, as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Ruling year info

1973

Executive Director

Mr. Bruce D. Brown

Main address

1156 15th Street NW Suite 1020

Washington, DC 20005 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

52-0972043

NTEE code info

Censorship, Freedom of Speech and Press Issues (R63)

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (W05)

Legal Services (I80)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Sign in or create an account to view Form(s) 990 for 2022, 2021 and 2020.
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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

As the news media has struggled with economic contraction, the capacity for legal support in newsrooms has decreased, even as the demand for such work increases amid efforts to stifle press freedom. Economic circumstances prevent many for-profit news organizations from pursuing litigation for the benefit of the public, particularly in the areas of freedom of information and court access. An increase in nonprofit news organizations, online start-ups, and freelance journalists has left many reporters and news outlets with little to no access to legal support. At the same time, anti-press rhetoric has increased and there is a lack of transparency coming out of the White House, which sets the tone for more limitations on state and local reporters gaining access to public records and government officials. We expect more subpoenas to reporters trying to obtain their sources and more litigation to try to stifle news organizations or reporters who may not have resources to defend themselves.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Legal Hotline

Available to reporters and media attorneys, this free legal hotline offers guidance on First Amendment and access issues, as well as providing connections to pro bono local legal counsel. RCFP attorneys respond to several hundred hotline inquiries each year.

Population(s) Served
Adults

RCFP publishes numerous guides on its website that provide summaries of state and federal laws affecting newsgathering activities. These include the State Open Government Guide, Election Legal Guide, the First Amendment Handbook, the Reporter’s Recording Guide, the Reporter’s Privilege Compendium, and the Open Courts Compendium. RCFP also operates iFOIA, an online tool for reporters to file and monitor Freedom of Information requests, and appeal denials.

Population(s) Served
Adults

RCFP attorneys represent individual journalists and nonprofit news organizations in needs-based cases. They also engage in impact litigation that presents an opportunity to shape regional or national First Amendment case law.

Population(s) Served
Adults

As a voice for the right to freely gather and distribute news, RCFP filed more than 40 friend-of-the-court briefs in 2022, many of which are joined by dozens of media organizations. More than 100 different organizations joined RCFP amicus briefs in 2022.

Population(s) Served

Through partnerships with Investigative Reporters & Editors, the Fund for Investigative Journalism, the International Documentary Association, and independent media affiliates, our attorneys annually help dozens of journalist, documentary filmmakers, podcasters, and independent media with the vetting of their work prior to publication. Some documentaries have been screened at Sundance and other major documentary film festivals or screened on major public television outlets.

Population(s) Served
Adults

The Local Legal Initiative provides local news organizations with the direct legal services they need to pursue enterprise and investigative stories in their communities. Reporters Committee attorneys are currently based in five states — Colorado, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Tennessee — to help local journalists and news organizations defend their rights to gather and report the news, gain access to public records and court proceedings, and hold state and local government agencies and officials accountable. In 2023, the Reporters Committee will expand the Local Legal Initiative to help meet the growing need for legal support in more places.

Population(s) Served

ProJourn is an innovative approach to providing journalists — small news organizations, nonprofit newsrooms, documentary filmmakers and freelancers — no-cost legal help with pre-publication review and public records access. The initiative, piloted in Washington and California in 2020 and 2021 by Davis Wright Tremaine LLP and Microsoft, brings together teams of seasoned media attorneys and corporate in-house counsel to build the bench of legal support and meet the growing needs of local journalists. Operated by the Reporters Committee, ProJourn is expanding this year in Georgia, North Carolina, New York and Texas after a pilot phase and landscape study demonstrated the critical need for increased legal support for local journalism.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Adults
Adults

Where we work

Affiliations & memberships

Hollywood Foreign Press Association 2019

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of friend-of-the-court briefs and letters filed

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Friend of the court (amicus) practice

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of major court victories

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

First Amendment litigation

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of reporters helped through our Hotline

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Legal Hotline

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of organizations that signed amicus briefs

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Friend of the court (amicus) practice

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of litigation matters where RCFP served as lead counsel

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

First Amendment litigation

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of participants attending RCFP-led panels, trainings, and presentations

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

The Reporters Committee fully intends to maintain the growth and emphasis in our core areas of work. We aim to stand as the indispensable and widely recognized pro bono legal partner for journalists through our litigation, amicus, and pre-publication review practices. We are also continuing to build out and sustain RCFP’s support across the country for journalists through the Local Legal Initiative, ProJourn, the Racial Equity in Journalism Legal Fellow, and the Free Expression Legal Network (“FELN”) of law school clinics engaged in First Amendment and media law (which we co-direct with Yale Law School’s MFIA clinic). And our trainings and public education outreach to newsrooms, law schools, and journalists remain a strong area of emphasis, as we work to ensure that the next generation of reporters and lawyers has a full understanding of our First Amendment freedom of the press.

Building on our core areas of strength, we see several priorities for 2023: 1) expanding legal support for local journalists and 2) combating disinformation by pursuing pivotal access cases and protective newsgathering policies to help reporters keep government accountable. Defending reporter-source confidentiality and opening up government information to journalists are two of the best ways to reverse the effects of misinformation in our public square – and the Reporters Committee does more of this work than any legal services nonprofit in the country.

Expanding Local Support for Journalists

National legal and policy battles generate a great deal of attention and deserved organizational energy. But we know that journalists in smaller markets face severe legal challenges in covering local and state governments and other institutions whose actions affect the daily lives of millions of people and the strength of our democracy.

In small media markets, print and broadcast media typically have fewer pro bono resources to stand up for their rights, in terms of public access to records, meetings, and policymaking. And there is a growing culture of secrecy in state and local government, often coupled with the harmful impact of misinformation campaigns targeting audiences on the basis of race, religion, and political divisions.

For the past two years, the Reporters Committee has developed two complementary models of supporting local journalists. First, our Local Legal Initiative has placed staff attorneys in five states (to date, Oregon, Oklahoma, Colorado, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania) who provide full-time pro bono legal services to local media and documentary filmmakers in public access, public records, litigation, and related matters. Frequently, the LLI attorneys hear of cases of journalists in need through our free national hotline. They work full-time to help local journalists and news organizations in their respective states defend their rights to gather and report the news, gain access to public records and court proceedings, and hold state and local government agencies and officials accountable to voters.

That model is one way through which the Reporters Committee is supporting local journalists. In 2023, we will face expansion decisions and opportunities. In addition to supporting the current LLI program with legal, communications, and fundraising services, we are considering expansion in the Midwest and other regions of the country where legal resources for local media are sparse.

Second, we have expanded ProJourn, a referral service at RCFP providing small news organizations, nonprofit newsrooms, documentary filmmakers, and freelancers with no-cost legal help for pre-publication review and public records access. The initiative was piloted in Washington and California in 2020 and 2021 by Microsoft and the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP and is now operated by the Reporters Committee. Under this scaling model, ProJourn brings together seasoned media attorneys and corporate in-house counsel to increase legal support capacity and meet the growing needs of local journalists. In October 2022, ProJourn announced a substantial expansion into Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, and New York. We hope to grow ProJourn into a network of law firms and corporate legal departments that handles up to 300 matters each year by the end of 2024, with an estimated annual value of $3.5 million in pro bono services.

Tthe Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press achieved substantial growth in 2022 in our key areas of work, providing free and high-quality legal support for news media in the United States.

In the past several years, our staffing has grown to 25 attorneys and more than 35 total staff members including RCFP Local Legal Initiative attorneys in five states, and “ProJourn,” a pro bono partnership with Microsoft and the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine to provide free legal services for members of the media across the nation. All of this is in addition to our national legal work and our policy engagement on preserving press freedom with the Department of Justice and another key decision makers.

The organization’s annual budget is now over $6 million, and the communications, fundraising, financial, and other support staffing has increased to meet the programming needs.

RCFP was founded in 1970 at a time when the nation’s news media faced a wave of government subpoenas asking reporters to name confidential sources. Prominent journalists formed a committee that initially operated part-time but soon grew to include full-time staff and attorneys donating their services. It wasn’t long before RCFP launched a legal hotline, the first of its kind to offer 24/7 legal guidance to journalists involved in First Amendment and freedom of information issues, as well as the first magazine devoted to reporting media law developments.

RCFP was a plaintiff in several lawsuits in its early years, including suits for access to White House documents and tapes held by former President Nixon, for former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s official telephone transcripts, and for FBI arrest records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). We also started submitting amicus briefs in the 1970s and now file more than 30 briefs annually in state and federal courts around the country. We have played an amicus role in virtually every significant press freedom case that has come before the U.S. Supreme Court over the last five decades.

In 2014, RCFP launched a direct litigation practice, representing reporters and news organizations in both needs-based and impact litigation matters, as well as filing lawsuits on its own behalf. In just a few years, this practice has grown from handling just a few matters each year to a docket in the fall of 2018 that included more than 20 active litigation matters. The impact of our litigation over the past few years has been substantial and we are improving access to information for reporters and building a stronger body of case law.

Since the mid-1980s, RCFP has also published comprehensive guides for reporters, including a 50-state compendium of open government laws and a First Amendment Handbook, providing basic information about media law for newsrooms. After the September 11 attacks, RCFP became a leading expert on efforts to prevent important information from reaching the public and our “Homefront Confidential” reports and “Behind the Homefront” blog provided authoritative summaries of what happened to the public’s right to know in the post-9/11 world.

Today, RCFP provides litigation support to dozens of journalists and documentarians annually, and RCFP attorneys regularly speak on legal issues and provide in-person trainings to hundreds of journalists each year. We will continue to grow our legal practice by prioritizing local newsroom engagement and relationship building to identify more specifically the needs of journalists we seek to serve. We’re also committed to a more inclusive and equitable workplace and are actively working to improve our internal policies and external presence to match that goal.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We act on the feedback we receive, We share the feedback we received with the people we serve, We tell the people who gave us feedback how we acted on their feedback

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback, We don’t have the right technology to collect and aggregate feedback efficiently, It is difficult to find the ongoing funding to support feedback collection, It is difficult to get honest feedback from the people we serve

Financials

REPORTERS COMMITTEE FOR FREEDOM OF THE PRESS
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
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  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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lock

Connect with nonprofit leaders

Subscribe

Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

REPORTERS COMMITTEE FOR FREEDOM OF THE PRESS

Board of directors
as of 02/13/2024
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mr. Stephen J. Adler

Thomson Reuters

Term: 2019 -

J. Scott Applewhite

The Associated Press

Wolf Blitzer

CNN

David Boardman

Temple University

Chip Bok

Creators Syndicate

Susan Goldberg

GBH

Dahlia Lithwick

Slate

Anthony Mauro

The National Law Journal

Jane Mayer

The New Yorker

Andrea Mitchell

NBC News

Maggie Mulvihill

Boston University

Carol Rosenberg

The New York Times

Thomas C. Rubin

Stanford Law School

Margaret Low

WBUR

Jennifer Sondag

Bloomberg News

Paul Steiger

Pro Publica

Pierre Thomas

ABC News

Saundra Torry

Freelance

Judy Woodruff

The PBS NewsHour

Stephen Adler

Reuters

Manny Garcia

Austin American-Statesman

Laura Handman

Davis Wright Tremaine

Massimo Calabresi

Time Magazine

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz

San Francisco Chronicle

Josh Gerstein

POLITICO

Alex Gibney

Jigsaw Productions

James Grimaldi

Wall Street Journal

Karen Kaiser

The Associated Press

David Lauter

Los Angeles Times

James Neff

Philadelphia Inquirer

Charlie Savage

New York Times

Vickie Walton-James

NPR

Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP

Lynette Clemetson

University of Michigan

Nikhil Deogun

Brunswick Group

Gail Gove

NBCUniversal

Diego Ibargüen

Hearst

Jeremy Jojola

9News Colorado

Kimbriell Kelly

The Los Angeles Times

Colleen Mccain Nelson

The McClatchy Company

Norman Pearlstine

Bruce W. Sanford

BakerHostetler

Nabiha Syed

The Markup

Adam Symson

The E.W. Scripps Company

Matt Thompson

The New York Times

Susan Zirinsky

CBS News

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Not applicable
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 9/27/2023

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 08/25/2023

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Data
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We disaggregate data by demographics, including race, in every policy and program measured.
Policies and processes
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.