Sunshine week about openness

Published 11:17 am Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Perhaps more than any other time of the year, this week is perfect time to reflect on the importance of shining a light on the value of open records and government transparency.

For the past five years, Sunshine Week has been a nationwide initiative by media organizations to educate the public about the importance of open government and the value of making all documents available.

Named such for the “Sunshine Laws,” any legislation that promotes an open and transparent government, it is important that Americans stay vigilant and fight for this worthy cause.

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Many feel that the press and the media must serve as a watchdog over government, and that is certainly true.

But we must never forget that our democracy is for the people, by the people. The average citizen has the same rights to government documents as the media.

From police reports to death certificates to lawsuits to payroll files to minutes of governmental meetings, nearly every document kept by a government agency or body is public and should be made reasonably available.

Sadly, recent Associated Press audits in Ohio have shown that the state — and ultimately the nation — has much room to improve in this area.

But the tide may be turning on a national level, at least as far as increased confidence in the government goes.

The 2009 Sunshine Week survey by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University found that nearly eight in 10 adults think President Obama’s Freedom of Information directive calling for a presumption of disclosure is the right thing to do.

Now it is up to each and every American to help keep the proverbial sun shining on government all year long.