First Amendment Forever Fund now accepting grant applications
J. Alex Tarquinio, SPJ National President, 212-283-0843, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennifer Royer, SPJ Director of Communications and Marketing, 317-361-4134, email@example.com
INDIANAPOLIS – Journalists have a new way to fight for public records, defend against subpoenas and advocate for journalism. The Society of Professional Journalists announces today, during Sunshine Week, that the First Amendment Forever Fund (FAFF) – a press freedom war chest – is ready to accept applications for funds.
The Forever Fund, as it is known, is a permanently endowed account that will always provide funds to fight, advocate and litigate for journalism. For example, funds may be requested for:
• Trips by press freedom advocates to lobby Congress on the Freedom of Information Act, the shield law, Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or any number of federal issues.
• Grants for other journalism organizations to advocate.
• Proactive litigation to establish better case law, and advocacy for better state freedom of information laws.
• Travel expenses to give out Black Hole awards and initiate other parachute offenses.
• Public education, such as public service announcements, advertising, school curriculum development, and outreach. If the public doesn’t support journalism, then the politicians certainly won’t.
“The fund ensures that SPJ will always have a means to fight for press freedom, no matter the economy, the budget or the whims of donors,” FAFF Committee Chair David Cuillier said. “Clearly, it isn’t getting any easier to fight for press rights today. By creating this fund when we did, we have ensured that we will see the benefits in our lifetime, and the effects will reverberate long after we are gone.”
The SPJ Board of Directors voted in 2014 to approve what was then called an “endowed legal defense fund” at the urging of then-SPJ President Cuillier. Since then, the First Amendment Forever Fund account has grown to about $200,000, which allows for about $10,000 per year in interest to be spent on projects.
The FAFF Committee will review applications and has the authority to approve up to $5,000. Larger requests will be considered by the SPJ Board of Directors.
SPJ President J. Alex Tarquinio extolled the partnership that includes First Look Media, the National Freedom of Information Coalition and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “Creating closer ties among press freedom groups is among SPJ’s key goals,” Tarquinio said. “Their inclusion on the First Amendment Forever Fund Committee will ensure greater collaboration and communication in the years to come.”
In addition to Cuillier as chair, the FAFF committee includes:
Hagit Limor, chair of SPJ’s Legal Defense Fund Committee; James Risen, director of First Look Media Press Freedom Defense Fund; Barbara Petersen, chair of National Freedom of Information Coalition Knight FOI Litigation Fund Committee; Danielle McLean, chair of the SPJ Freedom of Information Committee; and Larry Messing (staff ex-officio member), SPJ director of development.
When considering applications, the committee will focus on four criteria:
• Broad impact on preserving press freedom beyond just one individual or organization.
• Long-term impact on preserving press freedom.
• Increased public awareness, support and trust in an independent watchdog press.
• Focused attention on the fund that could attract additional support, either direct financial contributions or in partnerships and collaborations.
Questions about submitting a request can be sent to FirstForever@spj.org.
Donations to the fund are not tax-deductible because SPJ is a 501(c)6 organization, but every dollar counts. Give online, by check, or set up auto-pay for monthly deductions. If you would like to pledge all or a portion your estate toward the fund in your will, contact Director of Development Larry Messing.
SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund, or give to the SPJ Foundation.