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'First Amendment Guerrilla' Jack Landau Dies

Jacob "Jack" C. Landau, a lawyer and journalist who helped found the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in 1970 and was its executive director from 1974 to 1985, died this week at the age of 74. The 1961 New York University Law School graduate was a reporter for the Associated Press and The Washington Post before becoming the Supreme Court reporter for Newhouse Newspapers in the 1960s. Early in the Nixon administration, he served as a spokesman for Attorney General John Mitchell, helping to write new rules requiring the AG's approval for a news-media subpoena.

In 1970, in response to an increasing number of subpoenas seeking to compel reporters to name confidential sources, a group of journalists formed a committee to help provide legal assistance. Landau was a founding member of that group, along with Benjamin C. Bradlee of The Washington Post, Mike Wallace of CBS and Tom Wicker of The New York Times. Landau also started the First Amendment Hotline, the first free legal guidance service for journalists. In 1974, he became the RCFP's executive director, where he remained until 1985. After leaving that post, he wrote a syndicated column about law for Newhouse Newspapers until his retirement in 1992.

Landau once described himself as a First Amendment guerrilla. "Basically, the idea was to fight back, and if you couldn't do it nicely, you did it through warfare. ... I'm the guerrilla, and if you can't get it one way you can get it another. And that's what we did."

Here is the RCFP announcement and coverage from The Washington Post and the First Amendment Center.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on August 19, 2008 at 10:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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