The New England First Amendment Center at Northeastern University is a joint undertaking of the New England First Amendment Coalition and the university’s School of Journalism.
The New England First Amendment Coalition was formed in 2006 by a group of journalists concerned that citizens, to say nothing of reporters, are routinely denied access to the work of government: public documents, meetings, hearings. Efforts in each of the six New England states to combat this growing trend had been marginally effective. But the founders saw a need for a unified, region-wide organization, one that would speak in one, robust voice across the six New England states.
The founders, at the outset newspaper editors with decades of experience battling for public access to government, received non-profit status as the New England First Amendment Coalition. They were soon joined by editors from around the region. Each could cite a steady erosion of laws designed to guarantee transparency in government.
The coalition then sought and found an eager university partner, the School of Journalism at Northeastern University. Together, they created the New England First Amendment Center, which is housed on the university campus in Boston.
The coalition recruited a board of directors composed of First Amendment supporters from diverse backgrounds, from First Amendment legal experts to public interest groups and news organizations. The 18-member board is broad-based, geographically and professionally.
The coalition’s executive director is Doug Clifton, who was the top editor at both the Miami Herald and the Plain Dealer in Cleveland when those papers won four Pulitzer prizes. Northeastern’s Distinguished Professor of Journalism, Walter V. Robinson, for many years The Boston Globe’s top investigative editor and reporter, is the coalition’s principal liaison with the university.