Sunshine Sunday to kick off weeklong, multimedia open government
Opening a dialogue about the public's right of access to government
information is the focus of Sunshine Sunday and Sunshine Week:
Your Right to Know, which kick off March 13, 2005, and continue
through the following week.
Participating daily and weekly newspapers,
online sites, and
radio and television broadcasters will feature
editorial cartoons, and
news and feature stories
that drive public discussion about why open government is important
to everyone, not just to journalists.
"A better climate for keeping government as open as possible has
to begin with improving public understanding and support for
freedom of information," said Associated Press President and CEO
Tom Curley, a member of the Sunshine Week steering committee.
"This project marks a great new start in promoting public awareness
of these issues."
The current initiative, spearheaded by the American Society of
Newspaper Editors with a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight
Foundation in Miami, expands the Sunshine Sunday efforts nationally
and across media.
The Radio Television News Directors Association also has received a
Knight grant to help broadcasters to participate.
Other journalism groups and media companies also support the
project, and several state press associations are coordinating
existing Sunshine Sunday programs with the national effort.
The 54-member Steering Committee includes leaders from media
companies, newspapers, magazines, academia and major journalism
"This is not just an issue for the press.
It's an issue for the public," said Andy Alexander,
ASNE Freedom Of Information chair, who is chief of the
Cox Newspapers' Washington bureau.
"An alarming amount of public information is being kept secret from
citizens and the problem is increasing by the month.
Not only do citizens have a right to know, they have a need to
"Our goal is the raise public awareness of this horrible trend
that is hurting democracy," he said of the Sunshine Week
"We hope that it sparks a public dialogue about the value of open
government and the damage to citizens from excessive government
In addition to media efforts, a partnership with the
American Library Association will provide the opportunity for
education and community discussion of Freedom of Information issues
on the local level.
Sunshine Week also ties in with the Freedom Forum First Amendment
Center's 2005 FOI Day on March 16, 2005 in Arlington, Va.
The Sunshine Week Web site http://www.sunshineweek.org
to be launched in early 2005, will be the clearinghouse for most of
the materials, which are expected to include:
* A variety of op-eds and articles for use by print
and online media
* Story ideas for print and broadcast news outlets
* Video news packages for television broadcasters
* Stories of citizens using FOI laws to
get information to help their communities
* Information for libraries
setting up community FOI programs
* Links to online FOI information and resources.
Sunshine Sunday began in Florida in 2002.
Led by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors, the event
generated editorials, op-eds, editorial cartoons and news stories
about the importance of open government.
FSNE estimates that some 300 exemptions to open government laws
were defeated in the legislative sessions that followed the three
Sunshine Sundays, many because of the increased public awareness
Since then, several other states, including Alabama and
South Carolina have launched similar initiatives.
Debra Gersh Hernandez,
Sunshine Week Coordinator, at [log in to unmask]
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