Vance Center Advances Local Journalism Initiative

April 2020

(Photo Credit: Asheville Watchdog)

Lawyers for Reporters has launched: the collaboration between the Vance Center and the Press Freedom Defense Fund has begun providing pro bono legal assistance to local journalism in the United States.

The Asheville Watchdog, a brand new online news service, started operations recently, with pro bono support from Lawyers for Reporters and the law firm King & Spalding.  This involved incorporating, filing for tax-exempt status, obtaining insurance, and other steps.

Lawyers for Reporters also began helping two local publications in Texas to consider converting to nonprofit status.  Advice on such conversion is a central focus of the initiative, since it opens up new sources of funding from philanthropy and community members.  Lawyers for Reporters is working with national associations of local news organizations to provide such advice to their members.

Another form of pro bono help is defense against defamation threats.  Lawyers for Reporters is advising two Venezuelan journalists-in-exile to respond to such threats, including retaining a law firm to defend one lawsuit.  It also is providing pre-publication defamation review to help publications limit litigation risk.

Lawyers for Reporters also has started a nonprofit incorporation for a journalist/artist advocacy organization.  Pro bono services are available not only to publishers, but also to other reporting organizations issuing information in the public interest.  The services include corporate, media law, real estate, intellectual property, insurance, and other issues related to the legal operations of organizations.

Lawyers for Reporters has support from the Democracy Fund, as well as the Press Freedom Defense Fund.  The Vance Center is incubating it as a program, with the goal of its becoming an independent nonprofit public interest law firm in support of local, independent journalism in the United States.