Legal resources for

New Jersey journalists

The Center for Cooperative Media has compiled the following legal resources for the convenience of its New Jersey partners and members of the NJ News Commons. Please note that none of the following information should be construed as legal advice; please consult a licensed attorney for specific questions about the law and inquiries related to your situation.

Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press

For help finding pro-bono or low-cost legal assistance, the Center recommends the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press, a nonprofit organization that has been assisting journalists since 1970. The RCFP provides free legal resources, support and advocacy to protect the First Amendment and the rights of journalists. Its services include:

  • A legal defense and FOIA hotline. This is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week by Reporters Committee attorneys. It is available to all working journalists, regardless of their medium, and media lawyers. The number is 1-800-336-4243 or via email [email protected].
  • Amicus Briefs and Statements of Support, both alone and in conjunction with major news and transparency organizations. The Reporters Committee or its attorneys are involved in more than 20 briefs each year that are filed with the U.S. Supreme Court and in federal and state courts. The Reporters Commitee is a voice for the right to freely gather and disseminate information in any form.
  • Publications and Resources, available free online on topics ranging from state and federal open government laws, access to electronic records, reporters’ shield laws around the country, access to court documents and proceedings, and more.
  • Regional Training Seminars to help emerging and established online investigative news sites navigate the particular legal issues of electronic newsgathering.

Rutgers’ News Law Project

For common questions about New Jersey law as it pertains to the media, we recommend you refer to the Rutgers Institute for Information Policy and Law’s News Law Project. Lead and supervised by professor Ellen P. Goodman, teams of students researched commons questions from journalists in the Garden State. The results FAQs are not legal advice, but rather are meant to give journalists a sense of the legal terrain.

Student Press Law Center

Student journalists, or those assisting student journalists, with non-urgent media law questions should contact the Student Press Law Center. The SPLC is the nation’s only legal assistance agency whose mission is to support student news media, and has been in operation since 1974. The SPLC provides free legal advice and info for student journalists on a wide variety of topics. It also operated an Attorney Referral Network, which includes 150 lawyers across the U.S. who can provide free legal representation to local students as needed.

Legal guides from the Institute for Nonprofit News

The Center is partnered with the Institute for Nonprofit News, which provides excellent guides to its members pertaining to different policies, contracts and terms needed by digital news organizations. Check out its Legal Guide for Nonprofit Newsrooms, which includes template documents for:

Other resources

  • New Jersey Foundation for Open Government (NJFOG)
  • New Jersey Press Association
    • The NJPA Legal Hotline provides members with expert legal advice on most newspaper-related issues. You can access past questions and answers on the NJPA website here. To reach the hotline, call 973-596-4861 during the week during normal business hours. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard Law School
  • Media Law Resource Center
  • National Freedom of Information Coalition
    • The National Freedom of Information Coalition is a nonpartisan alliance of nonprofit, citizen-driven state FOI and First Amendment organizations, academic and First Amendment centers, journalistic societies and attorneys. Its website is full of resources. The Coalition also administers the Knight FOI Fund, which provides financial support for open government lawsuits.
  • Poynter Media Law Online Class (free)
    • Poynter’s News U offers a free online course that reviews basic defamation, copyright infringement and invasion of privacy law as it pertains to publishers.