A Matter of Perspective—It's Sunshine Week
It’s Sunshine Week from March 10-16—even if the physical sun isn’t shining!
“Sunshine Week is a national initiative spearheaded by the American Society of News Editors to educate the public about the importance of open government and the dangers of excessive and unnecessary secrecy. It was established in March 2005 with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.” —Wikipedia
So why is Sunshine Week important to you and me?
Do you like to know what your government officials are doing with your tax dollars, with legislation? Then Sunshine Week is important—not just for this week, but for all year long.
Sunshine Week is a reminder that an open, transparent government is vital to remaining a free and open nation. So many things have happened behind closed doors that should have either not happened at all, or should have been conducted in the open.
Many government officials don’t always understand what the Open Meeting Law is or how it can be used. Sometimes meetings are closed that should remain open.
The media, especially your local media, are not the “enemy” busy writing “fake” news about the elected officials. (It does happen at all levels of news reporting, don’t get me wrong, but the prevalence is not as high as some have indicated it to be.)
Every day authentic journalists wage a war against “fake” news. We work to uphold the freedoms that allow us and citizens access to public documents that can answer our questions.
But it isn’t always easy. Governments do their best to put up obstacles which make it harder to receive government information. Sometimes we will ask repeatedly for information and have even had our newspaper attorney involved in requesting information.
I would like to think that locally, when information is not released that it is simply a misunderstanding of what is public data and what is not—both on the part of the requestor and the keeper of the records.
Misunderstandings can and do happen, but there are times when it is not a misunderstanding and simply a blatant refusal to release information that is public.
“An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”
This quote has been attributed to Thomas Jefferson, although it may have just been a summation of Jefferson’s beliefs. Regardless of who spoke it or wrote it, the fact remains that without an open government, the citizens won’t have the access to the information to help them make the educated decisions that we need to make.
The job of journalists is to make sure that public data remains as such and that government does not take the freedom of information from us.