Kayla Konway, senior in Ferris’ journalism professional and technical communication program, understands the impact government secrecy has on journalists and believes an open government is essential.
“An open government allows us to have access to documents that impact our daily lives,” she said. “By the government using excessive secrecy, we are unsure of what is going to happen to us, our careers, what makes up our lives.”
Many in the journalism industry agree with Konway, which is why in March 2005 Sunshine Week was established. Sunshine Week is a national initiative guided by the American Society of News Editors to educate the public and promote dialogue about the importance of open government, the dangers of necessary and excessive secrecy and the significance of freedom of information.
This year, Sunshine Week is set for March 10-16, with the final day coinciding with the birthday of James Madison, father of the first amendment.
“As a journalist, [freedom of the press] means I can inform my readers of what is going on around them or what my opinion about a person or topic is,” Konway said. “If freedom of speech was taken away, my career field would also vanish.”
Driven by journalists, the goal of Sunshine Week is to enlighten and empower all Americans to play an active role in their government at all levels, according the Michigan Press Association Foundation. Mere access to information can lead to improved lives for citizens and stronger communities.
Sunshine Week participants include news media organizations, historians, government officials, schools and universities, libraries and archives, non-profit and civic organizations and individuals with an interest in open government.
“Sunshine Week makes an initiative to promote the public’s right to know,” Konway said. “Journalists help to fill the gap between the government’s choices and the impact on the public.”
Along with the American Society of News Editors, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is a chief sponsor of the event.
“Our ongoing mission is to ensure that government at all levels remains transparent for the public and for reporters in all platforms,” Reporters Committee Chair Tony Mauro said. “This is a great opportunity to engage many different partners in open government education and discussions.”
Konway believes keeping the government transparent is more than just a mission for journalists; it’s a responsibility.
“Journalists are responsible for informing their readers and society of the whole truth,” she said. “Journalists allow their readers to have access to information they may not have had access to otherwise. We allow our readers to be informed.”