Knight, Columbia Launch First Amendment Institute

Will invest $60 million in fight for free speech, press

Citing, in part, the declining financial fortunes of traditional news outlets, The Knight Foundation has teamed with Columbia University to create the Knight First Amendment Institute at the school.

The $60 million effort will be aimed at preserving the First Amendment in the digital age via research, education, and backing litigation protecting the press and freedom of speech.

"[E]conomic pressures on traditional news companies have put a strain on their capacity to fight for these rights," they said in announcing the institute.

They pointed out that court fights can be extremely expensive for both old and new media, who are "hard pressed" to push those suits in the current economic climate.

Knight conducted a survey recently of newsroom editors and found they think the industry is less able to pursue free speech cases than it was a decade ago, even as the laws fail to keep pace with the digital age.

Knight and Columbia are splitting the costs evenly, each ponying up $5 million in operating expenses and $25 million each to the endowment.