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Sunshine Week 2008 at a glance

By Melanie Bengtson
First Amendment Center Online intern

Sunshine Week will mark its fourth year of promoting open government and the Freedom of Information Act through a series of events held March 16-22, 2008. Sunshine Week is sponsored by the American Society of Newspaper Editors and a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The aim of Sunshine Week is to engage the public in the quest for open government. Journalists, librarians, nonprofits, schools and members of the public participate by fostering discussion and sponsoring activities related to freedom of information.

Organizations hosting events for Sunshine Week include the First Amendment Center, and American University Washington College of Law.

  • The First Amendment Center will host the 10th annual National FOI Day Conference on March 14. The conference will take place at the Newseum, the Freedom Forum’s new $450 million museum of news in Washington, D.C., and will include keynote speakers, FOI experts and the presentation of the American Library Association’s James Madison Awards.

  • American University’s Washington College of Law will present a Freedom of Information Day Celebration on March 17. The all-day event, hosted by the law school’s new Collaboration on Government Secrecy, will include a keynote address by WCL professor Robert Vaughn and a luncheon speech by District Judge Royce C. Lamberth, as well as several panels discussing FOI issues. Professor Daniel J. Metcalfe, who directs CGS, will moderate the event.

  • Sunshine Week and the Eric Friedheim National Journalism Library will co-host a dinner on March 18. Tom Curley, president and CEO of the Associated Press, will give the keynote address. He will update his 2004 Hays-Enterprise Lecture, which addressed the importance of FOI in the government. His speech will focus on priorities for the new administration.

  • will host two discussion panels on access to information. The event, “Government Secrecy: Censoring Your Right to Know,” will take place on March 19 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The two panels are titled “The Secret Executive — What Can Congress and the Public Do?” and “Citizen Self-Help: Finding the Information You Need.” The panels will also be available via Webcast.

    Sunshine Week recently announced a partnership with Helium, an online freelance platform that allows writers to submit articles about thousands of issues. Articles are ranked blindly by other writers on Helium and then authors earn revenue based on the popularity of their articles. Sunshine Week has signed on as a charity cause, which allows Helium writers to donate their earnings to Sunshine Week. Sunshine Week’s Helium page has a list of potential article subjects and debate forums for writers to use as inspiration.

    Other resources, including an informational brochure about the mission of Sunshine Week, are available on the Sunshine Week Web site. A complete calendar of Sunshine Week events is available here.

    Melanie Bengtson is a junior studying political and economic development at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.

  • Related

    2008 National FOI Day conference: Agenda

    90% want to know candidates' stands on open government
    Poll commissioned for Sunshine Week also finds three out of four respondents view federal government as secretive. 03.18.08

    AP chief: Press should quiz candidates on open government
    Tom Curley praises passage of updated FOIA but chides Bush administration efforts that he says undercut the measure. 03.20.08

    Audit finds Bush order barely trims FOIA backlog
    'Behind its ambitious facade, the order lacked both carrot and stick,' states National Security Archive report. 03.21.08

    Closed-door government lacks key ingredient: us
    By Gene Policinski When public records are involved, we must remember they aren’t open merely to satisfy the curious. 03.23.08

    Event explores FOIA law, secrecy vs. security, infrastructure
    News release Today's conference opens with former ISOO chief J. William Leonard as keynote. Leonard speech 03.04.08

    National FOI Day
    News executives, correspondent win open-government awards
    CBS News' Bob Schieffer, AP's Tom Curley, NBC's Paula Madison will be honored by RTNDF for promoting First Amendment principles. 03.03.08

    Shield law or no, protection of confidential sources uncertain
    Proposed measures would offer only modest shelter for journalists who want to withhold identities of those who gave them information. 03.17.08

    States fight to keep officials' e-mail from public inspection
    Open-records advocates contend by keeping electronic communications private, states are giving their elected officials an avenue to operate in secret. 03.19.08

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