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Jack Landau, 'First Amendment guerrilla,' dies

By The Associated Press
08.18.08

WASHINGTON — Jacob "Jack" C. Landau, a reporter who dubbed himself a "First Amendment guerrilla" and helped organize a journalists' advocacy group, has died, his family said. He was 74.

Landau died Aug. 9 at an Arlington, Va., hospital after a long illness, said his daughter Ariel Landau of Greenbelt, Md. He had been living in Falls Church, Va.

The journalist began his career with newspapers in New York and went on to work for the Associated Press and The Washington Post in the 1960s, before establishing himself as a U.S. Supreme Court reporter for Newhouse Newspapers.

He served as a spokesman for Attorney General John Mitchell early in the Nixon administration, helping to come up with new rules requiring the attorney general's approval for a news-media subpoena.

He returned to Newhouse in 1970. In the same year he helped launch the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, later serving as its executive director from 1974 to 1985.

The Reporters Committee lists several noteworthy initiatives during his tenure: a hotline for reporters to call when they faced challenges; a newsletter now known as The News Media & the Law; and advocacy for shield laws to protect reporters from being forced to disclose confidential sources.

Landau was a charter member of the Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame.

Landau told journalism historian Floyd J. McKay he saw 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," Landau said to McKay.

Former CBS reporter Fred Graham remembered Landau as a "tireless, innovative force" when the two helped forge the Reporters Committee. "Many of the things we do now were dreamed up by Jack. He should be remembered as a pioneer in protecting reporters' rights," Graham said in a statement.


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