Sunshine Week begins Sunday, March 10 and runs through Saturday, March 16. The week focuses attention on access to public information, open government and journalism’s role in promoting transparency.
What if there were no news outlet to shine the light? It means the community would lose its ability to hold officials and government institutions accountable.
In the words of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”
The idea is that the best way to keep our government representing all of us is for all of us to have a clear view of its inner workings and contribute to its operation.
But, there’s a troubling trend ripping through American journalism. Newspaper closures and consolidations over the past 15 years have left more than 1,400 cities across the U.S. without their main source of regular local news. More than ever before, the work of journalists is crucial to ensuring our elected officials are held accountable.
The American Society of News Editors launched the first national Sunshine Week in 2005 to coincide with the March 16 birthday of James Madison, father of the Constitution and key advocate of the Bill of Rights.
Citizens are encouraged to participate in Sunshine Week to help promote open government and push back against excessive official secrecy. Private citizens can write letters to the editor, elected officials can pass resolutions supporting openness and introduce legislation improving public access, and educators can teach their students about Sunshine Week and how government transparency makes communities better and improves our lives.
With a diminished press, elected officials and government bureaucrats are given a free space to do what they want without fear that it will be exposed. With no watchdog to shine the light, corruption and waste can flourish.