Is an open and honest government too much to ask for? The journalists behind Sunshine Week don’t think so.
Guided by the American Society of News Editors, Sunshine Week is a national initiative to educate the public and promote dialogue about the importance of open government, the dangers of excessive secrecy and the significance of freedom of information.
Each year, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools, newspapers and broadcast outlets are among those celebrating Sunshine Week. This year, Sunshine Week is set for March 16-22.
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 to the Michigan Press Association Foundation. Open access to information can lead to improved lives for citizens and stronger communities.
At the university level, open access to information can lead to improved lives for students and a more cohesive learning environment. Unfortunately like with the national government, open access isn’t always provided.
Earlier this year, the Torch was forced to submit a Freedom of Information Act request for six-month-old student government election results. The process was a frustrating one for the Torch to say the least. As an organization that strives to serve its readers, not having the information to do so resulted in feelings akin to censorship.
Knowing how and when to file a FOIA request is something every journalist should be familiar with. However, in a proper relationship that adheres to the spirit of FOIA legislation, media outlets like the Torch should rarely need to FOIA open records, which brings me back to Sunshine Week.
Sunshine Week reminds us why public entities should be forthcoming with information. Doing so cultivates a positive working relationship with media outlets that ultimately benefits the public.
Since journalists and the government (or in the Torch’s case, the university) both work to serve the public, this type of relationship is a no-brainer, right?