Knight, Columbia Launch $60 Million First Amendment Institute

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, in partnership with Columbia University, has announced a $60 million partnership to create an institute that champions First Amendment rights.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University will work to preserve and expand First Amendment rights in the digital age through research and education and by supporting litigation aimed at protecting freedom of expression and the press. Knight and Columbia will contribute $5 million each to establish the institute and $25 million each for an endowment.

Located on Columbia's Morningside Heights campus in New York City, not far from the university's law and journalism schools, the institute will focus its efforts in the areas of litigation, research, and education as well as on court cases with the potential to define First Amendment law in the digital age. Through research, fellowships, publications, lectures, and other events, the institute also will work to help the legal community, including the nation's network of legal clinics, understand the principles underlying the First Amendment and how they apply to new technologies.

"The First Amendment is not self-executing; only people can make it what it has become, through our attitudes, actions and, more pointedly, through the courts," said Columbia University president Lee C. Bollinger. "In the past, news organizations pursued and won key court cases defining free expression. But such cases can be enormously expensive, and many media — both established and new — are increasingly hard-pressed in the current economic environment to support First Amendment legal action. While the digital age has opened up new opportunities for accountability journalism, we need to fill the void and continue to champion free expression through litigation, research, and education."