Sunday, March 05, 2017

Sunshine Week, which starts next Sunday, has never been more important to observe, promote

By Al Cross, director, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, University of Kentucky

For a dozen years now, the American Society of News Editors has led the observance of Sunshine Week, celebrating open government and freedom of the news media in the service of democracy. This year's week-long observance, which starts next Sunday, March 12, is the most important ever.

Polls show trust and confidence in the news media to be at all-time low, and President Trump has called leading news organizations enemies of the people. The growing anti-journalism feeling has begun to affect even rural journalists, so it's time for news organizations at all levels to be about explaining what we do and why we do it.
The point of a "week" is to have repeated impact on the audience from various sources, so we hope weekly newspapers will promote Sunshine Week in this week's and next week's editions. ASNE has posted a budget for coverage, and The Associated Press will publish a full package of coverage Monday, March 6. This will be available to non-members on the Sunshine Week site. Columns, cartoons, public-records data, Sunshine Week logos, sample proclamations for adoption by government officials and a page for educators are available in the Sunshine Week toolkit.

Sunshine Week is scheduled each year to include national Freedom of Information Day, March 16. That is the birthday of James Madison, father of the First Amendment. Sunshine Week is made possible by an endowment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and this year by a donation from The Gridiron Club and Foundation of Washington, D.C.

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