Thursday, June 18, 2009

Is the Shine Off of Sunshine Week and Open Government?

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Sunshine Week loses its only staff member, Debra Gersh Hernandez at the end of the month. Hernandez a contractor for the American Society of News Editors has been point person for Sunshine Week since 2004.

Sunshine Week held in March every year stresses the importance of open government and freedom of information. All forms of media participate during this week by highlighting the publics “right-to-know.”

Without Hernandez Sunshine Week will depend on volunteers and in-house part-time staff, said Scott Bosley, the executive director of the ASNE.  He hopes the event has enough support to carry on without its full-time national coordinator.

Just like all media outlets are suffering so is the ASNE. For several years funding for Sunshine Week has come from the Knight Foundation. A matching fund drive with ASNE recently only produced one fifth of its goal of $2.5 million.

Not only have there been cutbacks in all areas but even their name that has stood since 1922 has been cropped to the “American Society of Newspaper Editors.”

Legislators have used Sunshine Week to introduce legislation like Boucher’s shield law bill and Senators Schumer and Grassley’s bill to allow federal courts to admit cameras.

Hernandez estimated that 1000 media outlets have joined in Sunshine Week producing editorials and informing the public of government secrecy issues that is their right-to-know.

Sunshine Week will continue on some level but it will be up to the remaining media outlets to take up the gauntlet and lead the charge to shine the light on the publics right-to-know during Sunshine Week from now on.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Commentary

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