Southwestern Law School Los Angeles, CA

News Release

October 15, 2009
Pulitzer Prize-winning Journalists to speak at Southwestern

The California First Amendment Coalition presents 14th Annual Free Speech and Open Government Assembly

Southwestern's Donald E. Biederman Entertainment and Media Law Institute will host the 14th Annual Free Speech and Open Government Assembly on Saturday, October 24. Focusing on First Amendment rights, this event is sponsored by the First Amendment Coalition, the Biederman Institute, and the McCormick Foundation. The event will feature panels of journalists, legal practitioners and scholars speaking about journalism, technology, law and public policy as they relate to freedom of speech and freedom of information rights.

Alexandra Berzon, winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Public Interest Journalism and now a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, will be featured at the conference in a live interview conducted by Los Angeles Times media columnist James Rainey. The conference also features Alex Jones, winner of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Specialized Reporting, who is now Director of Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy and author of the recently-released Losing the News: The Future of the News That Feeds Democracy.

Panel discussions will focus on a variety of topics, including: journalists' use of social media for reporting, new online methods to track the influence of money on legislation, financing and performance of local public schools, and training sessions on how to get inside news stories about local police and the criminal justice system (and avoid being "spun" by government officials). The morning session, "Tools for news coverage of local government," will be conducted in English, Spanish and Vietnamese to accommodate colleagues in the ethnic media.

"The First Amendment Coalition is honored to join with Southwestern Law School in bringing together some of the best and brightest in journalism, technology policy, media law and ethnic media to discuss both the challenges and opportunities confronting institutions of free speech," said Peter Scheer, Executive Director of the First Amendment Coalition. "If you're a media lawyer or journalist, this is the one professional conference of 2009 you can't afford to miss."

The conference will take place from 9 a.m. (registration begins at 8 a.m.) until 5:30 p.m. (with a reception immediately following) in the historic Bullocks Wilshire Building on Southwestern's campus. Admission to the conference is free; however, attendees must RSVP as soon as possible at the Assembly registration page of the coalition's website. Parking is available on campus for $6.

In addition to the regular program, the event will afford opportunities for informal conversations and socializing for the journalists, lawyers, academics, students, public officials, community activists and other guests.

The First Amendment Coalition is an award-winning, nonprofit public interest organization dedicated to advancing free speech, more open and accountable government, and public participation in civic affairs. Founded in 1988, the Coalition has been an effective counterweight to excessive and unnecessary secrecy at all levels of government. The Coalition's activities include strategic litigation to enhance First Amendment rights for the largest number of citizens; free one-on-one legal consultations for journalists, activists, academics and ordinary citizens educational and informational programs offered online, in books, and in conferences; and public advocacy through writings of Op-Eds and public speaking. The Coalition's offices are in San Rafael, CA.