The University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications (UFCJC) and the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) recently announced that NFOIC will be relocating its headquarters to UF.
UFCJC will now be home to three units at the forefront of freedom of information and First Amendment issues: NFOIC, the Joseph L. Brechner Center for Freedom of Information and the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project. NFOIC will be located inside the Brechner Center and the two organizations will collaborate to create research and public-awareness projects advancing the access rights of journalists, and all citizens, to information about issues of public concern.
NFOIC, currently located at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, is a nonpartisan alliance of state and regional organizations promoting collaboration, education and advocacy for open government, transparency and freedom of information (FOI). Its affiliates include citizen-driven nonprofit FOI organizations, academic and First Amendment centers, and journalistic societies.
The Brechner Center, founded in 1977, works to educate journalists, policymakers and the general public about the law of access today and how it should work tomorrow. The center is a source of research, expertise and advocacy about the law of gathering and disseminating news across all platforms and technologies.
The Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to current and contemporary issues affecting the First Amendment freedoms of speech, press, thought, assembly and petition. Its activities include filing legal briefs, authoring scholarly articles, publishing op-ed commentaries and presenting speeches and papers at conferences and symposia across the country.
“By forming an alliance, our efforts in protecting and advancing the public’s access to information will be amplified,” said Diane McFarlin, UFCJC dean. “This is particularly true at the state and local level, where civic life at the grassroots level is fundamental to a well-functioning democracy. This work is more critical than ever.”
Added NFOIC Board President Mal Leary: “Relocating to UFCJC and working with the prestigious Brechner Center strengthens our goal to enact needed legislative and administrative reforms to government transparency. The challenge to ensure state and local governments and public institutions provide access to their records and proceedings continues to grow.” Leary is a political correspondent for Maine Public.
The Brechner Center is led by Frank LoMonte, a nationally known media lawyer and former executive director of the Student Press Law Center. The Brechner First Amendment Project is headed by Professor Clay Calvert, the Brechner Eminent Scholar in Mass Communication at UFCJC and one of the top First Amendment scholars in the country.
“With this strategic alliance, and with the vast resources of our journalism and law schools, the University of Florida becomes the preeminent center of thought leadership about improving public policy to advance the public’s access to essential information,” LoMonte said. “The NFOIC’s work as the nation’s watchdog over state legislation affecting the public’s right-to-know complements and augments our role at the Brechner Center in working with stakeholders from journalism, government, law and technology to make information more accessible and civically useful.”
NFOIC plans to complete its relocation to UFCJC by this summer.