Sunshine Week forecast: Partly to mostly cloudy

March 11, 2019 01:00

During Sunshine Week 2018 alone, we noted at least 8 incidents showing a lack of transparency in government. Members tell us that, since last year, it’s only gotten harder to access public records (weigh in here).
That our Voice of the First Amendment Task Force has been busier than ever so far this year forecasts a similarly cloudy Sunshine Week this year, as we’re pursuing open records issues at the federal level and in at least 16 states, including three cases related to open courts.
Since January, we’ve And that’s just the beginning. We’re fighting in courts and state legislatures across the country to ensure press freedom and public access to meetings and records, including through our membership in the News Media for Open Government coalition.
The NMOG’s agenda for the 116th Congress and federal agencies includes:
  • Working with federal agencies to ensure compliance with the structural reforms of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) of 2016;
  • Holding the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), the nation’s premier resource for understanding and complying with FOIA, accountable by advocating for more Advisory Opinions that would reduce unnecessary and costly FOIA litigation for the government, businesses, and individual citizens;
  • Ensuring that journalists are not impeded in their newsgathering practices through policies that chill the daily communications between government officials and the press. In this regard, the coalition is supportive of the federal shield bill that was introduced in the 115thCongress. We encourage members in the new Congress to re-introduce that bill.
Journalists across the country are finding it increasingly difficult (and expensive) to access public records and also to access public officials, facing on a daily basis increased barriers to press access to those elected or appointed to represent the people our members work to keep informed.

Yet our latest research surveying local TV and radio newsrooms, to be released this summer, will show local broadcast newsrooms are spending more time, energy and money pursuing public records and placing increased emphasis on investigative and accountability journalism.

In more cases, journalists are “making the problem the story,” and increasing their own transparency in explaining their pursuit of supposedly public information and records.
They do so because, as the Sunshine Week mission espouses: It’s your right to know.

And RTDNA agrees. That’s why we have journalists’ backs and we’ll keep fighting, through the clouds, for government transparency.