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Sunshine Week 2012, March 11-17, will encourage access to government information, urging both the public and public officials to “Put More Sunshine in Government.”
This year, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is co-sponsoring the project with the American Society of News Editors, which launched the nationwide initiative in 2005 with a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Sunshine Week is a non-partisan, non-profit national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants have included news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofit organizations, schools and individuals concerned about the public's right to know.
The eighth annual Sunshine Week will again recognize “Local Heroes,” individuals who have fought for transparency or used government information to improve their communities. To view the stories of past winners and make nominations for 2012, go to the Sunshine Week website, www.sunshineweek.org.
“The free flow of information is critical to a democracy and to the public’s understanding of how government really works,” said Ken Paulson, ASNE president and CEO of the First Amendment Center. “Sunshine Week drives home the need for both press and public to fight for open government.”
“We’ve been strong supporters of Sunshine Week since the initiative began, and we look forward to working closely with ASNE, the partner organizations and individual participants across the country,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish. “The Reporters Committee has a long commitment to government transparency. Sunshine Week is a great way to expand our efforts to promote access to information.”
Coordinating the Sunshine Week activities for ASNE is Pete Weitzel, former executive director of the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government. On the Reporters Committee side is Communications Director Debra Gersh Hernandez, who was Sunshine Week coordinator from 2004-2009. The original grant from the Knight Foundation continues to provide funding for the program.
To mark Sunshine Week, organizations and non-profits pressing for greater transparency have held forums addressing specific open government issues, presented research reports focusing on secrecy problems, and surveyed state compliance with open records laws and the completeness of local government websites and showing increasing citizen distrust spawned by government opaqueness.
News media have produced special reports and series for print, online and broadcast that featured not only the information gleaned by open records access, but also the process that they had to undergo to get the information.
Public officials have taken notice of Sunshine Week by issuing open government proclamations, introducing laws, ordinances and policy changes designed to increase transparency, and by announcing website improvements that improved the public’s access to government information.
For more information about Sunshine Week and the Local Heroes awards, go to www.sunshineweek.org.
Founded in 1922 as the professional society for the top editors at the nation’s daily newspapers, ASNE now includes among its members news leaders from a wide range of news organizations, wire services, journalism schools, and journalism research and training organizations. ASNE provides leadership training and networking opportunities for news leaders, and promotes open government and the First Amendment, professional journalism, journalism education, and newsroom diversity. For more information, go to www.asne.org or follow us on Twitter @NewsEditors.
About the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press:
Founded in 1970, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press offers free legal support to thousands of working journalists and media lawyers each year. It is a leader in the fight against persistent efforts by government officials to impede the release of public information, whether by withholding documents or threatening reporters with jail. In addition to its 24/7 Legal Defense Hotline, the Reporters Committee conducts cutting-edge legal research, publishes handbooks and guides on media law issues, files frequent friend-of-the-court legal briefs and offers challenging fellowships and internships for young lawyers and journalists. For more information, go to www.rcfp.org, or follow us on Twitter @rcfp.