Why AP Wants Sandy Hook 911 Calls

By William J. Kole


BOSTON – It’s journalism’s dirty little secret: Just because we have information doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to use it.

When The Associated Press asked officials in Newtown, Conn., for the tapes of 911 calls made during last December’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, it touched off a debate pitting privacy rights against the public’s right to know.

Newtown’s police department denied the request, and the AP appealed to the state Freedom of Information Commission. On Sept. 25, the commission ruled in favor of AP and ordered the tapes’ release.

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Globe Editor Says Accountability Reporting the Foundation for Great Newspapers

By Zack Sampson


DEDHAM, Mass. – Though readers turn to newspapers for disparate reasons – arts, sports, politics, and more – it is investigative reporting that unites them, Boston Globe Editor Brian McGrory told a select group of New England journalists Sunday.

“The one area of journalism that crosses these divides and brings people together is our investigative reporting,” he said.

McGrory kicked off the New England First Amendment Coalition’s third annual Institute with a keynote address that both hailed watchdog reporting and bluntly acknowledged the financial disarray of the news industry.

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NEFAC Will Honor NY Times’ James Risen with Hamblett Award

CONTACT Rosanna Cavanagh | 401.331.7209


PROVIDENCE, R.I. -  James Risen, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who’s done ground-breaking work on domestic spying and now faces legal peril for refusing to disclose the source for his account of a failed CIA operation in Iran, will receive the 2014 Stephen Hamblett Award from the New England First Amendment Coalition.

An investigative reporter for The New York Times, Risen was told by a divided 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to identify his source and testify in the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, who’s charged with leaking classified information to Risen in violation of the Espionage Act, a dusty law cited with new frequency by the administration in efforts to crack down on leakers. Risen, despite the threat of imprisonment, has refused.

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Fellows Selected for 2013 NEFAC Institute

CONTACT Rosanna Cavanagh | 401.331.7209

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Journalists from a variety of media and all six New England states will gather in Dedham, Mass., Sept. 29-Oct. 1 to learn the latest investigative and database reporting techniques and public records access skills.

The fellows chosen for this, the New England First Amendment Coalition’s third annual Institute, reflect today’s diverse news media and come from daily and weekly newspapers, television and radio stations and online publications.

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Who’s Counting? Globe Probe Raises Doubts on Public Meeting Quorums

By Todd Wallack


BOSTON – While writing a story recently about the Massachusetts state pharmacy board, I noticed something odd: Only half the board members showed up for a meeting last summer — too few for a quorum — but the board members went ahead with the meeting anyway and voted on one item after the next.

It turns out it was part of a much wider problem, raising questions about how frequently obscure boards comply with all the rules for public meetings throughout New England.

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These Are Rough Times for Government Transparency in CT


By James H. Smith

HARTFORD, Conn. – In 1975, under the enlightened leadership of Gov. Ella T. Grasso, the Connecticut General Assembly passed a freedom of information law that remains a model today.

The original legislation proclaims “that secrecy in government is inherently inconsistent with a true democracy, that the people have a right to be fully informed of the action taken by public agencies in order that they may retain control over the instruments they have created; that the people do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them; that the people in delegating authority do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for them to know . . . and that the record of all public agencies be open to the public except in those instances where a superior public interest requires confidentiality.”

Today it is that confidentiality and secrecy that is taking precedence in Connecticut’s halls of government.

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NEFAC Says Holder Should Return AP Phone Files, Train Justice Personnel on Subpoenas

By NEFAC Staff


The New England First Amendment Coalition registered “extreme dismay” at the government seizure of phone records of The Associated Press and urged Attorney General Eric Holder to work for passage of a federal shield law and take other steps to avert a repeat of the intrusion that was part of a probe into a security leak.

A letter from Rosanna Cavanagh, NEFAC’s executive director, to Holder and Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole said the snooping into 20 AP bureau and personal phone lines “indicates that a failure of supervision or leadership has occurred on your watch.”

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Parents of Special Needs Students Want More Info on Darien Program Changes

By David DesRoches


DARIEN, Conn. – What started as a simple records request by a handful of parents has blossomed into an unprecedented legal matter that challenges the integrity of an entire school district, and perhaps even the state’s education department.

Parents of special needs children in Darien became concerned about their children’s legal right to a free and appropriate education, what’s known as FAPE, when a new special education director was hired in June of 2012.

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Digital Journalism Must Focus on Traditional Media Virtues, Balboni Tells NEFAC Luncheon

By Larry Laughlin


The “relentless focus” on building an audience must not overwhelm digital journalism’s obligation to report complex issues and investigate public and private corruption, GlobalPost founder and CEO Philip Balboni said Wednesday.

“This is why we have First Amendment protections; and in order to preserve them digital journalism must live up to all its responsibilities,” Balboni told the New England First Amendment Coalition‘s annual awards luncheon in Boston.

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NEFAC: Malloy’s Plan to Consolidate Watchdog Agencies “a Power Play”

By NEFAC Staff

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposal to further consolidate Connecticut’s watchdog agencies under a political appointee’s oversight “should be recognized for what it is: a political power play,” Rosanna Cavanagh, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition told a legislative panel in Hartford.

Cavanagh was testifying before the legislature’s Appropriations Committee in opposition to the changes embedded in Malloy’s proposed state budget, which would cut staffs and budgets of the agencies and make the Freedom of Information Commission answerable to a political appointee of the governor.

Her appearance was one of two current NEFAC initiatives in support of government transparency. The other asks the federal court in Vermont to make electronic devices such as tablets and smart phones accessible to reporters in court without special advance permission from the judge.

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