The Erie Reader is Under Attack
Help defend our only local paper and your First Amendment rights
The Erie Reader, Erie, Pennsylvania's only independent, locally owned alternative newspaper is under attack. The Reader and its contributing editor, Jim Wertz, are being sued for defamation by PA State Senator Dan Laughlin, who filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit to try and silence Wertz, and if successful could shut down the Reader.
The lawsuit falsely alleges that Wertz defamed Laughlin in an opinion piece outlining actions connected to attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 Election, and the events of January 6. This lawsuit is part of a national wave of efforts to silence the media. Our first amendment rights are at risk if local newspapers cannot shine a light on the positions of elected officials through political commentary and analysis.
Due to depositions that recently occured as a result of this lawsuit, information within emails sent between legislators have been made public. This story has been picked up by multiple national news outlets, beginning with a story published by the Philadelpia Inquirer the morning of June 16, 2023, and is shining a spotlight on this frivolous law suit spearheaded by Laughlin.
"The First Amendment and the Pennsylvania Constitution provide robust protection for individuals and entities to gather, report, publish, and comment on accurate information that is a matter of public concern or significance," wrote Paula Knudsen Burke, a lawyer for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in a July 25 response to Congressman Mike Kelly, who first threatened litigation over the opinion piece. "The Op-Ed falls squarely within the scope of those important constitutional protections."
The Erie Reader and Jim Wertz have retained the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and attorneys from Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr in Pittsburgh, PA, to defend them from Senator Laughlin's multi-million-dollar suit. While some of the attorney's fees have been graciously provided pro-bono, unavoidable additional fees are stacking up.
Please help independent journalists maintain their voice in the community by contributing to the Erie Reader Legal Defense Fund. The First Amendment, the future of the Erie Reader, the future of journalism – and democracy - may depend on it.
Note: This is not a political contribution. Donations do not support any candidate or political party.