Page 29

29

Joining With Microsoft to Protect Journalism Journalism is essential to a robust and enduring democracy. Yet journalists and newsrooms are facing unprecedented economic headwinds, as well as a hostile U.S. political environment and ongoing attempts by powerful interests to silence reporting through litigation. Recognizing the need to support the media’s vital mission, Microsoft and DWT launched a first-of-its-kind partnership to make free legal services available to reporters and small media organizations, especially those serving diverse and “news desert” communities. Launched as a pilot in October 2020, the Protecting Journalists Program (PJP) is initially serving clients in Washington and California. The program has engaged several organizations—including the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the First Amendment Coalition, and the Washington Coalition for Open Government—to screen and refer potential clients. Since launch, the PJP team has collaborated on more than a dozen matters that supported important news coverage nationally. In some cases, these stories might not have seen the light of day were it not for the legal assistance provided. As one example, a team of PJP attorneys provided pre-publication review for a journalist who wrote an article exposing a corrupt city government official. The story garnered national attention, and the official was forced to step down as a result of the article. The program taps the entrepreneurial spirit of Microsoft’s pro bono program, where big thinking and new initiatives are encouraged, and the media expertise and commitment to client pro bono partnerships of DWT. At least one Microsoft and one DWT attorney staff each matter, allowing the in-house counsel to learn the ropes from our group and expanding the number of legal professionals equipped to assist with this vital work. With a sophisticated, easy-to-plug-into process in place and a robust network of partners, PJP is positioned to achieve its goal of scaling up further and taking referrals from organizations nationwide.