CNPA Mission Statement

To protect and serve the common interests of its newsmedia members, to help members inform and thereby strengthen their communities, and to foster the highest ideals, ethics and traditions of journalism, a free press and the news profession.

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The California Public Records Act

The California Public Records Act gives the public the right to access government records. This right is also enshrined in California’s constitution, Article 1, Section 3(b)(1). The CPRA is an incredibly powerful news gathering tool that allows journalists to ask for any documents held by the government. While there are exemptions to the CPRA, these exemptions are not always asserted properly. That’s why it can be helpful to contact CNPA—we will let you know if the records you seek should be provided.

The Ralph M. Brown Act

The Ralph M. Brown Act requires government agencies to do the public’s business in public. That means that your city council or school board must allow the public to attend all meetings, and to comment at these meetings. The Brown Act also requires these meetings be announced ahead of time, typically three days. The notice must include agenda items detailing each issue to be discussed at the meeting. Journalists covering local politics monitor these agendas to learn if newsworthy items will be discussed. Failure to properly notice issues could result in the reversal of any action by an agency. CNPA can help you determine if the Brown Act is violated, and what remedies might be available to the public for such violation.

The California Shield Law

The California Shield Law allows journalists to protect confidential sources, and it prevents lawyers from hauling them into court to testify about their news gathering activities. Different rules apply depending on the context of each situation, but whenever someone tries to force a reporter to turn over her notes or a photographer to release his unpublished photos, the Shield Law could apply. Often, authority figures rely on the assumption that a journalist won’t know this law, but don’t be intimidated. If you face this situation, state that you believe the Shield Law applies and get CNPA on the phone to talk you through how to proceed.

legal helpline

At CNPA we are here to help with your news coverage and answer questions ranging from how to access the information you need to access to local government actions to anything else your reporters come across. Most common questions involve Public Records Act requests, local government actions, public notices, or access to police records. It’s important to note that we give general legal advice and make sure you know what the law is, if you have a question like approval of an article or a threat of litigation, we suggest you retain or ask your own counsel.

The legal helpline is run by our Staff Attorney, Brittney Barsotti, who prior to attending law school spent time on the ground as a reporter.

You can submit questions through our online submission below, by email or by phone. Please be sure to include your deadline so we can get back to you.

email for support

The CNPA Legal Team can be reached directly by email.

call for support

Staff Attorney, Brittney Barsotti, can be reached directly by phone.

(916) 288-6006

submit your question

Submit your questions through our online form.
Please note, that while the CNPA legal team makes every effort to respond within your given timeframe, we cannot make no guarantees.