Sunshine Week is Over
This past week was “Sunshine Week” in hindsight I wish I had written about this sooner so more people would be aware, and possibly attend local events. The week, put together by ASNE and the Reporters Committee highlights the need to free and public access to public information. The organization has put together a lot of articles and resources to help you learn more.
There were events around the nation to talk about access to information, and articles are written not only specifically for the event, but also by local newspapers about attempting to gain access to information.
You may think Sunshine Week was designed for reporters only, that is a misconception. We all have the right to access information from our government. Public disclosure of information is vital to democracy. There is a lot of information at your fingertips in government databases, but that is changing.
Several articles during Sunshine Week focused on the Trump Administration’s removal of once publically available information. For example, you cannot longer go to a website and see who has visited the White House. The Obama Administration had a link where you could check the guest book. President Trump’s staff has said they will make that information public on a regular basis when it is ready for release.
There has been other information removed from public web page’s that include data about animal cruelty and climate change. This has prompted groups of people to come together and take part in what are being called “data rescue events.” The groups select federal data they believe is at risk of being removed from websites and downloads the information to private servers to ensure the information will not get lost.
Every administration makes changed to government websites and alters content. This was no surprise. However, journalists and freedom of information advocates fear how far the Trump administration will go. As journalists we strive for transparency, shouldn’t we hold our elected officials to the same standards? Right to Know laws and Freedom of Information Act requests are not just for journalists. You can help hold elected officials accountable. I know next year I will become more involved with local events, I hope you will too.