Journalist groups coordinated nationwide audit

March 11, 2007

What it is?

Sunshine Week is a national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include print, broadcast and online news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public's right to know.

The Florida Society of Newspaper Editors (FSNE) launched Sunshine Sunday in 2002 in response to efforts by some Florida legislators to create scores of new exemptions to the state's public records law. FSNE estimates that some 300 exemptions to open government laws were defeated in the legislative sessions that followed its three Sunshine Sundays because of the increased public and legislative awareness that resulted from the Sunshine Sunday reports and commentary.

Several states followed Florida's lead, and in June 2003, ASNE hosted a Freedom of Information Summit in Washington, where the seeds for Sunshine Week were planted.

With an inaugural grant from the Knight Foundation, the ASNE FOI Committee launched Sunshine Week in March 2005. It continues to be celebrated each year in mid-March, coinciding with National FOI Day and James Madison's birthday on March 16.


Who participated

Several media groups, including the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Coalition of Journalists for Open Government, National Freedom of Information Coalition and Society of Environmental Journalists joined to coordinate a nationwide test of access to public records as part of Sunshine Week.

How it was done

Auditors were asked to visit their Local Emergency Planning Commission between Jan. 8 and 19, and ask for a copy of the Comprehensive Emergency Response Plan. Auditors then were asked to complete a series of survey questions and send the answers, along with a narrative describing their experience, to the national coordinators of the project.

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