Information Today, Inc. Corporate Site KMWorld CRM Media Streaming Media Faulkner Speech Technology Unisphere/DBTA
Other ITI Websites
American Library Directory Boardwalk Empire Database Trends and Applications DestinationCRM Faulkner Information Services Fulltext Sources Online InfoToday Europe KMWorld Literary Market Place Plexus Publishing Smart Customer Service Speech Technology Streaming Media Streaming Media Europe Streaming Media Producer Unisphere Research

News & Events > NewsBreaks
Back Index Forward
Twitter RSS Feed

Government Transparency Advocates Celebrate Sunshine Week
Posted On March 29, 2016
PAGE: 1 2

The sun shines on the government for at least 1 week each year. “Sunshine Week is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information,” its website states. Groups marking the occasion, held March 13–19, included the news media, lawmakers, civic organizations, libraries, nonprofits, and schools interested in the public’s right to know. Originating in Florida in 2002, this annual celebration features creative workshops, events, and other initiatives held throughout the nation to promote greater government transparency. For example, the following are some groups acting in the spirit of Sunshine Week:
  • Rhode Island’s lawmakers are considering legislation to live-stream public meetings, which would revise that state’s Open Meetings Act.
  • The California Senate introduced a bill that “would restore public access to some records of police misconduct and use of force.”
  • The Poynter Institute, a leader in global journalism, posted a series of articles to commemorate Sunshine Week, highlighting the nation’s need for government entities to comply with open records laws.

Toolkit, Reporting Package, and Idea Bank

The free Sunshine Week toolkit was designed to inspire journalists, bloggers, civic organizations, schools, and government officials in planning effective Sunshine Week events. It has links to opinion columns and editorial cartoons, a sample proclamation for state and local governments, and a webpage for students and educators to use when learning and teaching about open government (including lesson plans, activities, and other resources).

The Sunshine Week site also has a 2016 reporting package of stories, columns, photos, and graphics for use by journalists around the nation. There is a list of questions for journalists to pose to candidates for federal office concerning transparent policing, accountable law enforcement, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), communications surveillance transparency, secrecy surrounding drone strikes, electronic records management, whistleblowers, open government collaboration (between the government and nongovernmental organizations), and campaign finance.

The Idea Bank suggests open governments themes such as audits of compliance with records laws, reviews of government websites, reviews of proposed open government laws, spotlights on local heroes, the demystification of public records, and the role that the freedom of information plays in reporting and the community.

Celebrations Across the Nation

Sunshine Week’s website lists the events that were held across the country during the celebration (you can also use #SunshineWeek to find events). Although it remains a district without voting representation in Congress, Washington, D.C., enthusiastically embraced Sunshine Week. The following sections offer a roundup of events that took place in the nation’s capital earlier this month.

National Freedom of Information Day Conference

On March 11, the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center joined with, the American Society of News Editors (ASNE), Sunshine Week, and the American Library Association (ALA) to host the National Freedom of Information Day Conference, where they addressed transparency in government, open records, and freedom of information laws and practices. After a brief introduction about the work of OGIS (Office of Government Information Services) by its director, James Holzer, a panel of speakers discussed FOIA from the government’s perspective. Moderator Tom Susman, director of the American Bar Association’s Government Affairs Office, was joined by former FOIA government officials from various federal agencies. The panelists noted how far the nation (and the public) has come in terms of proactive disclosures, such as for government spending and contracting. Finally, the panel wondered whether, during confirmation hearings for the next administration, we can ask, “What is your commitment to transparency in government?”

During the second session of the day, Your Right to Know, Your Vote! Caucus on the Top 2017 Policy Priorities, panelists argued why an issue they promote should be the top priority in an incoming administration. The issues were national security transparency, whistleblower protections, money in politics and disclosures of political contributions, and policing transparency. Declaring FOIA “essential to our democracy,” Adam Marshall, a fellow at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (a sponsor of Sunshine Week), presented the audience with a litany of what must be done to bolster FOIA, including the following actions:

  • Reform FOIA exemptions, particularly (b)(5): “Inter-agency or intra-agency memorandum or letters.”
  • As commercial requesters overwhelm agencies, requests made by citizens, local community groups, and journalists suffer. Legislators can increase fees for commercial requesters or create “separate lanes” for processing.
  • Overhaul how agencies store and retrieve records, with the default being electronic.
  • “We need a public interest balancing test, shorter sunsets for privileges (12 years), and (b)(7) reform (‘records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes’).”

ALA president Sari Feldman presented the 2016 James Madison Award to Seamus Kraft, executive director and co-founder of The OpenGov Foundation. It develops “software, events, and coalitions that push governments across the country to be more accessible and responsive.” (Kraft’s acceptance speech is available on YouTube.) National Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame inductees this year included Miriam Nisbet (founding director of OGIS and former ALA legal counsel) and Cori Zarek (senior advisor for open government at the Office of Science and Technology Policy). Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, gave the luncheon keynote address (via video).

The afternoon session provided a report on the Associated Press’ (AP) Sunshine Week project. The panelists covered a range of “blocks and burdens” they (and others) face when filing FOIA requests and what news organizations are doing to support their own journalists, including awareness training and legal services for startups, new media, and freelance journalists. The day ended with a performance of FOIA Love: A Comedy Show About Public Records.

D.C. Open Government Coalition

On March 15, the D.C. Open Government Coalition hosted a program at the National Press Club that began with a conversation with Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser about the importance of open government at the municipal level. It also featured experts from government and civic organizations discussing the recently introduced Strengthening Transparency and Open Access to Government Amendment Act of 2016, an omnibus transparency bill that would make important improvements to the District of Columbia FOIA and the Open Meetings Act, as well as strengthen the Office of Open Government.

PAGE: 1 2

Barbie E. Keiser is an information resources management consultant located in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area.

Email Barbie E. Keiser

Related Articles

3/24/ A Little Bit of Sunshine
3/28/2013Transparency in Government During Sunshine Week 2013
3/31/2015Sunshine Week 2015: Open Government Is Good Government
3/22/2016SPECIAL REPORT: Open Data Day
3/31/2016New Tool Exposes Government Information
4/5/2016New Report Offers Best Practices for Transparency Reporting
5/10/2016Working Toward Universal Transparency
6/14/2016Recent Innovations in Open Government
7/5/2016Government Transparency Update: FOIA Turns 50
8/9/2016The Berkman Klein Center Dips Its Toes Into Open Data Directories
8/16/2016Conference Takes Deep Dive Into Legislative Data and Transparency
2/14/2017Improving the Process of Administering FOIA
3/28/2017The First Sunshine Week of the New Administration
6/12/2018Understanding the Ins and Outs of Campaign Financing
3/19/2019Gov404 Tracks Changes to Federal Government Websites
5/21/2019The Transforming Research Conference Puts Out a Call for Presentations
11/5/2019Soar Makes Its Satellite Map Publicly Accessible
4/7/2020Celebrating Sunshine Week During the COVID-19 Crisis
4/7/2020COVID-19 NEWS: Internet Archive Defends the Launch of Its National Emergency Library
4/7/2020COVID-19 NEWS: 'COVID-19 Information Overload Leads to Simple but Unhelpful Choices'
4/14/2020COVID-19 NEWS: IGI Global's 'What Is the Role of Libraries During the COVID-19 Pandemic?'
4/14/2020COVID-19 NEWS: 'Q&A: What Do People Ask a Librarian in a Pandemic? L.A. Library's InfoNow Has the Answer'
4/14/2020COVID-19 NEWS: 'Public Libraries Launch, Expand Services During COVID-19 Pandemic'
4/14/2020COVID-19 NEWS: 'How Effective Is Quarantine Alone or in Combination With Other Public Health Measures ... ?'
4/14/2020COVID-19 NEWS: CRP's 'The Psychological Fight of Our Lives'
4/16/2020COVID-19 NEWS: 'Most Libraries Are Closed. Some Librarians Still Have to Go In.'
4/16/2020COVID-19 NEWS: 'IMLS Announces New Stimulus Funding for Communities Across America'
4/16/2020COVID-19 NEWS: 'EveryLibrary Creates Fund to Help Library Workers in Need Because of COVID-19 Shutdowns'
4/16/2020COVID-19 NEWS: 'Library of Congress Cancels Public Events Until July 1'
4/21/2020COVID-19 NEWS: 'WHO COVID-19 Database Launches New Search Interface'
4/21/2020COVID-19 NEWS: 'Libraries Brace for Budget Cuts'
4/21/2020COVID-19 NEWS: 'Verizon Will Buy Video Conferencing Company BlueJeans'
4/23/2020COVID-19 NEWS: 'Stanford Law School Creates Free Database of COVID-19 Legal Memos'
4/23/2020COVID-19 NEWS: APA Announces More Free Resources
4/23/2020COVID-19 NEWS: 'Startling Digital Divides in Distance Learning Emerge'
4/23/2020COVID-19 NEWS: European 'Commission Launches Data Sharing Platform for Researchers'
4/30/2020COVID-19 NEWS: Library Resources From SLA and IFLA
4/30/2020COVID-19 NEWS: CCC Plans a May 5 Virtual Town Hall About Building Digital Resiliency
4/30/2020COVID-19 NEWS: ReadCube Implements COVID-19 Research Pass Program for Free Content Access
9/29/2020Sunlight Foundation Shuts Down
3/4/2021'Welcome to Sunshine Week 2021!' by Barbie Keiser
4/13/2021Open Government Under the Biden Administration

Comments Add A Comment

              Back to top