The Clients

The practice of journalism is undergoing a dramatic transition. Both traditional and non-traditional journalism organizations are looking for ways to use the Internet to fill important information needs. Many of these online ventures, however, lack the expertise and financial resources to thrive in an uncertain legal environment and are in need of pro bono legal assistance.

OMLN clients include some of the most promising ventures and innovative thinkers in online and digital media, ranging from local community blogs to multi-national news aggregators.  Network staff prescreen and evaluate all potential clients to determine their suitability for inclusion in the network, looking at the following, non-exhaustive criteria:

  • Viability. We believe that limited resources can have the greatest impact when focused on ventures that are economically viable and/or sustainable over time.
  • Adherence to journalistic standards. We seek to support ventures that practice the journalistic standards of truth, fairness, and transparency.
  • Innovation. We're looking for ventures that are at the forefront of efforts to harness the Internet to revolutionize journalism and fill unmet market needs.
  • Independence. The network will primarily support media ventures that are independent of the traditional media or corporate ownership.
  • Original reporting. Preference will be given to ventures that create their own original reporting, or that use traditional news sources in new and innovative ways.
  • Public interest. Priority will be given to ventures that serve the public interest, including those that fill important information needs or foster a sense of community.

Representative clients:

The New England Center for Investigative Reporting (NECIR) is the first nonprofit, university-based investigative reporting collaborative in the country focused on local and regional issues. The primary goals of NECIR are to produce high-quality, high-impact investigative reports that are published and aired by multiple media partners on multiple platforms, to train the next generation of investigative reporters including students at Boston University’s College of Communication and inner-city high schools, to serve as a platform for experimenting with how to effectively deliver long-form investigative content to a digital audience, and to be a model for nonprofit, multi-media, investigative journalism that could be duplicated nationwide. NECIR’s reporting reaches millions of people in New England and around the nation through reports appearing in print, on the web, radio and TV.

The Common Language Project (CLP) is a nonprofit multimedia journalism organization housed in the University of Washington's Department of Communication. Contributors cover underreported stories from all over the world, focused on key social justice issues such as human rights, gender equality, and the environment. CLP cofounders teach entrepreneurial journalism at the graduate and undergraduate level for the University of Washington, and bring journalism and media literacy education into schools throughout the Seattle area through the Seattle Digital Literacy Initiative.

Founded in January 2010, The Bay Citizen seeks to fill the gap in local civic and cultural news in the San Francisco Bay Area, stimulate innovation in journalism, and foster civic engagement. At the heart of its enterprise is a staff of experienced journalists who produce original, in-depth Bay Area news content. The reporters are focused on Education, Environment & Land Use, Health & Science, Government, Transportation, Business, and Arts & Culture. Staff coverage is complemented by a regular rotation of columns by staff and freelancers and local content partners. Their technology staff, which includes developers, designers and web producers, works in collaboration with their editorial team to create graphical and interactive features that complement their stories. The Bay Citizen’s primary content distribution channels are online through baycitizen.org and in the twice-weekly Bay Area section of The New York Times.

The Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS) is a community which develops and applies open-source tools to environmental exploration and investigation. By democratizing inexpensive and accessible “Do-It-Yourself” techniques, PLOTS creates a collaborative network of practitioners who actively re-imagine the human relationship with the environment. The core PLOTS program is focused on “civic science,” involving research on open source hardware and software tools and methods to generate knowledge and share data about community environmental health. The goal of PLOTS is to increase the ability of underserved communities to identify, redress, remediate, and create awareness and accountability around environmental concerns.

 Spot.Us is a pioneer in crowd funded investigative journalism. It encourages public participation in the production of journalism by collecting microdonations to fund journalists’ proposals for investigation. Stories are published on the Spot.Us website or on its partner news websites. The project has recently published work in The New York Times and has also worked with the Annenberg School of Communications at USC, the Oakland Tribune, San Francisco Magazine, the Earth Island Journal, Oakland Local, and the Public Press, among others. Spot.Us currently focuses on the Bay Area and Los Angeles, but plans to expand to other (yet undetermined) geographic regions in the near future. Its business model has been the subject of articles in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Business Week, and Wired. Spot.Us is funded in part by the Knight Foundation and is a nonprofit project of the Center for Media Change.

Christopher Elliot is a prominent journalist and consumer advocate who writes about the travel industry. Through his blog, available at http://www.elliott.org, Christopher gives advice to travelers, analyzes policies in the travel industry, and reports on new regulations and developments. In December 2009, he was one of two travel writers who received considerable media attention after the Transportation Security Administration issued a subpoena directed at his electronic records and sent federal agents to his home based on reporting on and posting of travel security directives.

MAPLight.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that provides citizens and journalists the transparency tools they need to shine a light on the influence of money on politics. Recognizing that elected officials collect large sums of money to run their campaigns and often pay back campaign contributors with special access and favorable laws, MAPLight.org makes money/vote connections transparent so that citizens can hold their legislators accountable. Specifically, the site combines three data sets: (1) campaign contributions given to each member of Congress; (2) how each member of Congress voted on every bill; and (3) which interest groups and companies support and oppose key bills. MAPLight.org currently tracks money and influence in the U.S. Congress and in the California and Wisconsin legislatures, with more states to come.

The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting’s motto is Thomas Jefferson’s statement: “Wherever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” Founded in 2009, the Center aims to fulfill the responsibility of a free press in the American democracy by providing independent reporting to Maine citizens. The Center researches, writers and publishes in-depth and investigative reporting about Maine government and elections. Its content appears on its own web site, pinetreewatchdog.org, and in 20 newspapers and their web sites, reaching more than half of the adult population of the state.

Looking for more information about the clients who have received assistance through the OMLN? Check out this booklet that profiles five innovative and exciting projects.

 Clients

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What the clients are saying about OMLN:

 “At the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, we provide citizens with the resources they need to hold the powerful accountable and make informed decisions…. The OMLN paired us with a fantastic partner at a fantastic firm who conducts pre-publication review for us and allows us – a non-profit, university-based organization – to feel confident in the stories we are publishing.” ~ Joe Bergantino, Director of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting

“How do we protect and trademark our content? How do we set up the corporation? How about liability? These are some of the many legal questions that have arisen. … We are excited to begin working with two law firms who have graciously offered us pro bono legal counsel. StutterTalk is so thankful to OMLN for making this possible.” – Peter Reitzes, President, StutterTalk

“During the preparation for the launch of The Bay Citizen, one of the first calls I made was to the Online Media Legal Network.... To perform our editorial work we knew we would take on tough topics and therefore needed quality, affordable legal counsel for prepublication. The OMLN were great to work with and quickly facilitated the introductions we needed to ensure we had the legal resources required to launch and support our news operations.” ~ Lisa Frazier, Founder, President and CEO of The Bay Citizen

“If it weren't for the OMLN, I would be up Defamation Creek without a First Amendment paddle. My lawyer ... is a lifesaver. Forced to jump into the game only two weeks before trial, … and in the glare of a media spotlight…, [he] still pulled off what I consider a victory.” – John Hoff, Blogger and Publisher of The Adventures of Johnny Northside

“As a startup nonprofit, we had a lot of expenses and not much money. To get the donations we needed to grow, we required 501(c)(3) tax status, but applying for that is an expensive process that was threatening to eat up our initial budget. The OMLN came to the rescue by connecting us to a Maine attorney who is doing the work pro bono.” ~ John Christie, Founder, Publisher and Senior Reporter at the Maine Center for Investigative Reporting

"The Online Media Legal Network has been a boon to Spot.Us. As a nonprofit startup we already have two strikes against us. A third could easily be lack of legal support. But with the help of OMLN, Spot.Us has a strong privacy policy, terms of use and safe legal contracts with reporters." ~ David Cohn, Spot.Us

"When I was sued for defamation and tortious interference by a travel agency, I didn't know what to do. ... I applied for help through the OMLN, and within a few days, I was connected with a top-notch lawyer who developed a strategy that would ensure this frivolous lawsuit would not succeed. Without the OMLN, I would have been forced into an unfavorable and unfair settlement." ~ Christopher Elliott, Blogger, Ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler, and Columnist for The Washington Post, MSNBC.com and Tribune Media Services