Transparency Watch

What journalists can learn from this year's Sunshine Week

Journalists don't need more reason to celebrate public records, but Sunshine Week provides a time for swapping tips and tricks, successes and horror stories. The EditorialMatters blog in Iowa spent the week posting tips like advice on requesting records, finding stories in those records, and avoiding all-too-common mistakes. Watchdog Wire shared their own tips on being a transparency watchdog.

The SPJ celebrated Sunshine Week by sharing their directory of FOIA resources by state. Anyone can look up laws, organizations and contact information for local experts at a glance.

The week of March 10-16, 2013, was full of open government discussions across the country. A piece of good news to come out of one is the new data.ny.gov site. New York governor Andrew Cuomo ordered state agencies to catalogue and share their data for the site, but the Times Herald-Record in Middleton, NY, said they hope to see actual enforcement of that order, even if it is a good sign.

The national FOIA portal, which hasn't seen total participation from federal agencies, was the subject of both an open government award and censorship this week. Bloomberg writes that the two EPA employees who won the award were unable to accept it in person. Also this week, Bloomberg reported on a draft bill that would create a single, national FOIA portal spanning all agencies.

And it looks like journalists aren't waging wars in court as often as they used to. The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse released a study showing "media organizations as a whole appear to be challenging government secrecy at the federal level less often than in the past." FOIA lawsuits from the media dropped from 22 during Bush's second term to 18 during Obama's first term.

You can find more on Sunshine Week events and news at sunshineweek.org.

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