New England First Amendment Coalition
February 2021
Each year, NEFAC honors individuals who have promoted and defended the First Amendment throughout New England. During its annual ceremony, the coalition presents the Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award, the Michael Donoghue Freedom of Information Award and the Antonia Orfield Citizenship Award.
Seeking Nominations for Freedom of Information and Citizenship Awards — Deadline March 19
Michael Donoghue Freedom of Information Award | Given each year to a New England journalist or team of journalists for a body of work from the previous calendar year that protects or advances the public’s right to know under federal or state law. Preference is given to those who overcome significant official resistance. Nomination Form
Antonia Orfield Citizenship Award | Given to an individual from one of the six New England states who has fought for information crucial to the public’s understanding of its community or what its government is doing — or not doing — on its behalf. The candidate should have shown tenacity or bravery in the face of difficulty while obtaining information that the public has a right to know. Nomination Form

This is the second of two introductory lessons on cleaning datasets obtained online or through public records requests. Before attending this class, it’s recommended that you first view Data Cleaning 101. By attending this second lesson, you will:

• Advance your data cleaning skills with OpenRefine.
• Learn how to import dirty data from websites and increase memory in OpenRefine.
• Build your facet and clustering skills.
• Learn how to split and merge data.
NEFAC Executive Director Justin Silverman recently told WPRI-Providence that Gov. Gina Raimondo’s decision to avoid the press is problematic, especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He said while President Biden has nominated her to be secretary of commerce, she is still the governor.
NEFAC wrote to Gov. Raimondo last month saying that "with Rhode Island reeling from cases of COVID-19 and a need for timely and accurate health information, there is no substitute for direct access to the governor." Read that letter here. Learn more about how NEFAC is helping during the COVID-19 pandemic here.
With political demonstrations occurring throughout the country and weekly protests held at the Maine State House, citizens are asking: why are these events covered the way they are? This program helps pull back the newsroom curtain and focuses on recent news coverage.
NEFAC’s Judy Meyer, executive editor at the Sun Journal, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, discusses a recent lawsuit to protect the First Amendment right to judicial documents in Maine and what could happen if that access continues to be denied.

Additional Coverage

Lisa Scagliotti, editor of the recently launched Waterbury Roundabout, describes how the closure of a local newspaper left her community without a regular news source and how she responded by launching her own. 

Dan Kennedy, a professor at Northeastern University, discusses the struggles of local journalism, challenges facing the local news industry and how a recently established legislative commission in Massachusetts may help.

The New England First Amendment Coalition recently argued in support of New Hampshire legislation that would require law enforcement certification proceedings to be public.

House Bill 471 would grant the public access to police certification hearings, providing a level of transparency necessary to keep law enforcement officers accountable to the communities they serve.

“The public’s interest in police misconduct is always at an extremely high level,” wrote NEFAC’s Gregory V. Sullivan. [...]

Additional Coverage

NEFAC followed up this testimony with supplemental comments on Feb. 10, addressing the concerns of the New Hampshire Chiefs of Police. Read that letter here. Learn more about how NEFAC is helping to improve police accountability here.
March 15 | 6:30 p.m. | Online | Free

NEFAC and the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications will celebrate Sunshine Week with an online expert panel discussion on the New Hampshire Right to Know Law.

The webinar will examine the values of open and responsive government and how all citizens play a role. [...]
Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said, “It is inconceivable that this information would implicate anyone’s privacy interests. But even if it did, the public interest in knowing how many Rhode Islanders are being defrauded clearly outweighs whatever minimal privacy interests there may be.”

“If this were any of other crime being investigated, we would be receiving this information,” he added. “We are looking for data, not personal information – just two numbers. There is no reason why an ongoing investigation should prevent this data from being disclosed.” [...]
Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said the Legislature is "notoriously secretive" and more transparency is needed.

"Measures to open up the lawmaking process are long-overdue," said Silverman, whose group hasn't taken a formal position on the recommendations. "As citizens, we need more transparency to not only better understand how our government operates but to also keep tabs on our representatives and hold them accountable." [...]
Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, argued Rhode Island voters should know who’s applying for such a potentially powerful job. Without that transparency, he added, Rhode Islanders will lose confidence in the process.

“Only through open and public process can we be confident that the most qualified candidate will be chosen,” Silverman said. “We need to know who’s applying so we can have a better understanding of why certain applicants were given interviews while others were not. This type of transparency is needed in all corners of government, but it’s especially crucial when so much power and influence is at stake.” [...]

Regional / National


Access to Courts, Juvenile Cases



Police Records



Secret Recording, Wiretap Statute


New Hampshire

Rhode Island