June 11, 2019: New York State Bar Association Announces Groundbreaking Initiative to Support and Save Local News Outlets

The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA), the largest voluntary state bar association in the country, announced a groundbreaking initiative to tackle the crisis of local journalism in the digital age and make recommendations on how New York State, the legal and business sectors can protect local news and define the future of local media in not only New York but throughout the country. The initiative will focus on, among other things:

  • Highlighting the crisis of local journalism in the digital age
  • Providing a legal perspective on the various issues facing journalists today
  • Bringing together a regionally diverse coalition of thought leaders in the media

“The rapid and ever-growing rise of social media as a source of news has triggered a substantial decline in local journalism. This places at risk First Amendment values and a vibrant, fearless free press.  Now more than ever, our local news outlets need the support to hold truth to power,” said NYSBA President Henry M. Greenberg. “The future of local journalism is in jeopardy, but there has been no major effort to find ways to provide support. NYSBA is taking the critical first step in trying to address this problem.”

New York has been directly impacted by the loss of local, hometown journalism. The number of newspapers in New York State has decreased by 34 percent since 2004, according to a study by the University of North Carolina. Were this any other critical industry, government would be called upon to find solutions.

“However, because of the special nature of the news business, starting with the constitutionally enforced wall between government and media, the role of the law in responding to the crisis has not been obvious,” said committee co-chair David McCraw, deputy general counsel for The New York Times. “With a foundational element of democracy and civic culture in jeopardy, there is a compelling need to consider whether there are appropriate legal responses to the crisis.”

The NYSBA Task Force on Free Expression in the Digital Age is co-chaired by McCraw and Cynthia Arato, a partner at Shapiro, Arato, Bach, LLP. It will bring together experts from different sectors, including media, legal and business. 

The Committee members include:

  • David McCraw, Co-Chair; Deputy General Counsel, The New York Times
  • Cynthia Arato, Co-Chair; Partner, Shapiro, Arato, Bach, LLP
  • Hon. Rolando Acosta, Presiding Justice, First Judicial Department
  • Mark Alcott, Of Counsel, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
  • Jennifer Borg, Of Counsel, Pashman Stein Walder Hayden
  • Joseph Finnerty, Partner, DLA Piper Global Law Firm
  • Hon. Victoria Graffeo, Former Court of Appeals Judge
  • Mike Grygiel, Co-Chair, Greenberg Traurig, LLP National Media and Entertainment Litigation Group
  • Caitlin Halligan, Partner, Selendy & Gay
  • Susan Harper, Managing Director, Bates Group LLC
  • Joel Kurtzberg, Partner, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP
  • Lynn Beth Oberlander, EVP and General Counsel, Gizmodo Media Group
  • Hon. Karen Peters, Former Presiding Justice, 3rd Department
  • Hon. Susan Read, Former Court of Appeals Judge
  • Hon. Robert Smith, Former Court of Appeals Judge
  • Kenneth Standard, Of Counsel, Epstein Becker Green

Hearings will be scheduled in the coming weeks, and are planned to be held in New York City, Albany and Syracuse.

NYSBA has for decades formed task forces and committees to examine current issues in the law and the legal system, and then make recommendations to address these issues. The Task Force on Free Expression in the Digital Age will make thoughtful, practical recommendations that will shape the future of local journalism. 

The task force is expected to present its report and recommendations in 2020 to NYSBA’s Executive Committee and House of Delegates

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About the New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Since 1876, NYSBA has helped shape the development of law, educated and informed the legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers through advocacy and guidance in our communities.

Contact: Brendan Kennedy
bkennedy@nysba.org
518-487-5541