March 14-20 is Sunshine Week. After this winter, we could all use a week of sunshine, but that’s not what this week is about. It’s about openness in government and letting the light in.
Journalists are the only profession protected by the U.S. Constitution and so they carry a heavy burden – most are happy to do so. When citizens don’t want to sit through a mind numbing four-hour council meeting, reporters do. When we don’t want to wade through thousands of documents to discover the truth, journalists do.
Sunshine Week is an initiative spearheaded by the American Society of News Editors to educate the public about the importance of open government and the dangers of excessive and unnecessary secrecy. It coincides with James Madison’s birthday and National Freedom of Information Day on March 16.
The initiative is working as people are playing more of a role in the actions of their communities, according to the Sunshine Week Web site. They are learning what kinds of information they have a right to see, where to get it, how to get it and what to do if someone tries to keep it from them.
NFPW supports such openness year round through its First Amendment Network. You can join any time (no charge!) through the NFPW Web site or during the NFPW Communications Conference in Chicago, Aug. 26-28.
Nebraska Press Women member Diane Wetzel wrote an article for The North Platte Telegraph pointing out a major contribution that Nebraska made to the legal interpretation of the First Amendment. Visit the NFPW Web site to read the entire article.
Keep the light shining!