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News Organizations Celebrate Sunshine Week

Tuesday, March 14, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Laura Sellers-Earl
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The American Society of Newspaper Editors launched the first national Sunshine Week in 2005. The celebration of access to public information has been held every year since to coincide with the March 16 birthday of James Madison, father of the U.S. Constitution and a key advocate of the Bill of Rights.

This year, ASNE (now the American Society of News Editors), The Associated Press and the Associated Press Media Editors, a group representing AP-affiliated news organizations, teamed up to mark the importance of press freedoms for Sunshine Week and beyond.

The ongoing collaboration will help the public understand the necessity of a free press, the importance of a transparent government and the role that a free flow of news and information play in a well-informed citizenry.

It will involve explanatory and accountability-related news stories and related content, as well as opportunities for public engagement in local communities to promote media literacy.

The effort kicked off with the following stories. For questions or more information, contact Tom Verdin, the AP's national editor for state government coverage, at

Sunshine week – Advocates say First Amendment can withstand Trump  

Journalism marks its annual Sunshine Week at an extraordinary moment in the relationship between the presidency and the press. First Amendment advocates call the Trump administration the most hostile to the press and free expression in memory. In words and actions, they say, Trump and his administration have threatened democratic principles and the general spirit of a free society. Yet free speech advocates say the press, at least on legal issues, is well positioned to withstand Trump.

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Sunshine Week – Trump’s actions raise fears about access to government data

Wondering who is visiting the White House? The web-based search has gone dark. Curious about climate change? Some government sites have been softened or taken down. Worried about racial discrimination in housing? Laws have been introduced to bar federal mapping of such disparities. Federal rules protecting whistle-blowers? At least one has been put on hold. Since taking office, the Trump administration has made a series of moves that have alarmed groups with a stake in public access to information. Some are so concerned they have thrown themselves into “data rescue” sessions nationwide, where they spend their weekends downloading and archiving federal databases they fear could soon be taken down or obscured.

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Sunshine Week – Texas wants to keep more records from public

When Texans ask state and local officials for records detailing their operations, more and more the answer is no. The reason why is in dispute. A quirk of the Texas public records law, adopted almost 45 years ago, says that when officials deny the public the right to see something, they usually have to run that decision by the state attorney general’s office. The number of those denials has been soaring. In the fiscal year that ended in August 2001, governments forwarded about 5,000 denied record requests to the attorney general’s office for review. That number had jumped to more than 27,000 by 2016.

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Sunshine Week -- The truth about the press, if Trump can handle it

As I've listened to President Donald Trump go on tirades against the "very dishonest" media, I've tried not to take his criticism personally. Lord knows, I've made my share of mistakes in my career. But they've never been on purpose, or out of malice. In fact, after more than 30 years, I can still remember the phone call from a grieving relative when I misspelled a name in an obituary (I wrote Ronald instead of Roland). This was before articles were published online, so print newspapers were the permanent record. The man's family had to live with my error. However Trump bashes journalists, he'll never make me feel as bad as I did back then. So here's the truth: The press is not the opposition party. The media is not the enemy of the American people. Negative stories are not fake news. And when Trump keeps making these claims, he isn't just attacking the press; he is chipping away at one of the pillars of our democracy.

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Sunshine Week – You have a right to know

Rita Ward had a question: Why did a weekly listing of causes of death suddenly stop appearing in the local newspaper? It turned out the health department in Vanderburgh County, Indiana., halted its practice of providing causes of death to the Evansville Courier & Press. When Ward and a reporter for the newspaper asked why those records were no longer available, the department cited an Indiana law intended to protect citizens against identity theft. Ward and the newspaper sued for access to the information under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act. They lost two lower court rulings before the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that the records, focused on the decedent’s name, age and cause of death, should continue to be made available to the public. In their ruling, the judges underscored “the importance of open and transparent government to the health of our body politic” and held that “the public interest outweighs the private.”

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