The Union Recorder

Editorials

March 19, 2014

Sunshine Week: We all have a role in leading the charge

MILLEDGEVILLE — This week is Sunshine Week, the aptly named nationwide effort to shine light on laws and policies designed to benefit the public’s right to know.

While this effort is often championed in newspapers and media publications like ours, Sunshine Week is really not about media access at all. It is in fact about promoting transparency and valuing its importance for all of us; not just a notion that should be limited to newsroom like ours, and others like it.

National Sunshine Week is a time to draw attention to access laws and how they benefit and hinder the public’s right to know — often with regards to our taxpayer dollars. How our dollars are managed, the decisions made by the stewards entrusted to watch over them, and in what direction our communities, our state and our nation are being led. According to sunshineweek.org, the aim of this observance is “to promote a dialogue about the importance of government and freedom of information.” The initiative “seeks to enlighten and empower people to play an active role in their government at all levels, and to give them access to information that makes their lives better and their communities stronger.”

But Sunshine Week doesn’t just stand on its own. As citizens, we have a direct responsibility ourselves — to seek information, to attend public meetings, to ask questions, to do the research and be mindful of how we vote and of our votes’ impact.

As a newspaper, we use the open records and transparency laws Sunshine Week promotes frequently, and though it often goes unseen and unspoken its impact shows up on our pages. But the efforts Sunshine Week promotes are not solely limited to newsrooms like ours, although we are among the entities charged to lead the fight. There is always room for improvement and we, too, can always do more to lead the effort for greater transparency. But these laws are there so that the people — all of us — will have the tools to hold officials accountable and make sure that governments operate with open doors with the sun shining brightly on all the actions that they take.

It’s about all of us becoming aware. After all, there are only a few of us in our newsroom and there are many of you out there.

We must also remember, however, that there are public officials who do promote transparency, the ideals of open government and that they work for us — the people — but this week should still serve as a reminder of its importance to us all in our daily lives. This week is a reminder that transparency and open government isn’t just about media, it’s about all of us and our legal right to know. Sunshine Week should renew a sense of curiosity in us all.

To learn more visit www.sunshineweek.org.

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