It strikes me that it is more than appropriate that Sunshine Week, March 12-18, 2017, begins on the first day of Daylight Savings Time! Maybe an extra hour of sunshine will actually help! One can hope.
I have written so often about open government, transparency, the right to know, the First Amendment and the free press that I mention just one recent blog post that perhaps best expresses my deep concerns about the crisis in which we find ourselves. https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2017/01/27/information-and-media-not-weapons-but-tools/
As citizens of a threatened democracy we need to think more than ever about our rights, the role of the press, and our need to discern truth in an incredible barrage of data, misinformation, fake facts, propaganda and, happily, thoughtful exposition of ideas, issues and facts. We can’t give up.
Nationally, the week is sponsored by the American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. The SW website offers an excellent introduction to the principles, the issues, a valuable Tookkit for local activists including a calendar of what’s happening around the nation. It’s an essential starting point and inspiration to take action. All is revealed through multiple channels, including #Sunshineweek@asne.org, and on Facebook.
For many years the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI) has commemorated Sunshine Week by sponsoring a Freedom of Information Day event. The history of FOIA Day (March 16) respects the birthday of James Madison, author of the First Amendment. And so each year MNCOGI hosts a Freedom of Information Day public event. This year’s event is set for Thursday, March 16, Noon at the Minneapolis Central Library.
Keynote speaker at FOI recognition is Patrice McDermott, founder and long-time director of OpenTheGovernment.org, a DC-based coalition of organizations that endorse government accountability and access. Her talk is entitled “Secrecy and Accountability – Looking Forward, Looking Back.” Member of the National Freedom Act Hall of Fame Dr. McDermott is a national authority on the principles and challenges to the right of the people to access to information by and about the government.
At the same gathering the Coalition will honor Tony Webster, recipient of this year’s John R Finnegan FOI Award. Webster is a self-proclaimed “web engineer, public records researcher, and policy nerd”. (@webster) MNCOGI chair Gary Hill observes that “Tony Webster is a shining example of the power of a single individual to make government more transparent and hold it more accountable.”
Sponsored each year by the Coalition, the Finnegan Award honors Minnesota newspaperman John R. Finnegan, installed in 2011 as a member of the Freedom of Information Hall of Fame (http://www.nfoic.org/2011-open-government-hall-fame)
The FOI Day event is free and open to the public.
A powerful statement of press freedom endorsed by a broad coalition of agencies: http://ncac.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Press-Freedom-Statement-FINAL.pdf
Recipient of the James Madison Award, sponsored by the American Library Association Washington Office, is Jon Tester (D-MT). The award will be presented at one of the main events of Sunshine Week, a gathering at the Newseum in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, March 15 – streamed live from the Knight TV Studio in the Newseum. http://www.newseum.org/live/)