Sunshine deprived as we have been these past months, it’s good to know that Sunshine Week is finally here! Though the snow may keep coming, the important thing about this Sunshine Week is to assure that the information does, too. Sunshine Week 2011 is March 13-19.
Perhaps there is no time in history that open government has been both possible and threatened – in many way by the same forces. Money, politics, and now the overwhelming and unpredictable omnipresence of telecommunications and information technology. And, to some extent, our own inexperience dealing with the implications, particularly of the technology.
Sunshine Week is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Prime mover behind the Sunshine Week initiative is the American Society of News Editors in collaboration with the National Coalition on Government Information. Supporters include news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others committed to the public’s right to know at the national, state and local levels.
Unlike many such campaigns Sunshine Week enjoys a bit of national support, primarily from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the ASNE Foundation and the Gridiron Club and Foundation. As a result, there actually is a national staff that produces and makes readily available a wide range of promotional materials. There is, for example, a Sunshine Week Open Government Proclamation that can be adapted for local use, press releases, and a full toolkit of other promotional resources.
This year they have added the Ray of Sunshine Game which is worth a click. The game offers a dozen thought-provoking questions and a few minutes of self-revelatory fun for open government promoters.
Freedom of Information Day, one aspect of Sunshine Week, is held each year on March 16, the birthday of James Madison. In Minnesota there will be a noontime Freedom of Information Day event at the Minneapolis Central Library. At that event retired television anchor Don Shelby and former State Senator Don Betzold will receive the annual John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award. That event is sponsored by the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information.
A number of national events are also in the works. There is an FOI Day event in Washington, DC and a national webcast emanating from Washington will amplify the message of open government and the rights of the people to access.