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Freedom of press

We've published many stories over the years citing the positive impact of having Cornell University near the Cayuga County area. The internationally prestigious school in Ithaca brings innovation and expertise to many industries in our area, including agriculture, hospitality, biotechnology, food science and plenty of others.

Soon, a new industry will be added to that list: news media.

At a time when freedom of the press has been under attack, news organizations are often fighting governments to get information that the public has right to know. The most high-profile battles may be at the federal level, but there are plenty of cases of newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites being stonewalled at local and state levels.

We've had a few recent struggles with local government transparency right here in Cayuga County, some that you've read about and some that we're still working to bring to light.

That brings me back to Cornell and the announcement that has me excited.

A couple of months ago, the university's law school said it will be launching a First Amendment clinic in the fall of 2018. Cornell law students will work with some of the most accomplished First Amendment attorneys in the nation on freedom of speech and freedom of the press cases.

"The First Amendment Clinic will litigate and support cases that further the cause of free speech and aid the news gathering process," Cornell said in a December announcement. "In addition, the clinic will conduct research, policy analysis, and advocacy, as well as sponsor free-speech-related programming aimed at the wider campus community. Although the clinic aims to make a national impact, it will give particular emphasis to cases and clients operating in upstate New York, western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio."

Cornell alum and prominent freedom of the press attorney Mark Jackson has been named executive director of the clinic.

"I am thrilled to be working with the law school in creating the First Amendment Clinic," he said in the announcement. "As a lawyer who has spent his entire career representing journalists and news organizations, I have seen firsthand the critical role lawyers can play in defending and protecting a free and independent press-in all media-and in aiding the critical news-gathering function. The clinic will play its role, both locally and nationally, in these important issues."

Cornell said the clinic is receiving support from the Stanton Foundation, and that will include the hiring of a Stanton First Amendment Fellow to serve as the supervisor of the clinic's students and manager of its cases.

"Many thanks to the Stanton Foundation for making this dream a reality," said John Blume, the laws school's director of clinical, advocacy and skills programs. "The new First Amendment Clinic is going to be a timely addition to our already vibrant array of live-client clinical and practicum courses. We are happy that we are going to have the opportunity to promote free speech and freedom of the press in upstate New York and the surrounding region."

Executive editor Jeremy Boyer’s column appears Thursdays in The Citizen and he can be reached at (315) 282-2231 or Follow him on Twitter @CitizenBoyer