Journalists Ben Bradlee, Tom Brokaw and Judy Woodruff were recently named the honorary chairs of Sunshine Week 2007, which encourages dialogue about open government and freedom of information.
In its third year, Sunshine Week will take place March 11-17 and 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 relating to freedom of information. ASNE Sunshine Week Coordinator Debra Gersh Hernandez estimates that about 1,000 organizations participated in 2006.
"We're going into our third year of Sunshine Week, and the concept just continues to build momentum," said American Society of Newspaper Editors President David A. Zeeck in a press release. "We've built even stronger relationships with our existing partners, and we're continually finding new groups and individuals who want to join the fight against unwarranted government secrecy at all levels."
Several events will take place during Sunshine Week. Among them:
The First Amendment Center will host its National Freedom of Information Day conference on March 16, which is the birthday of James Madison. Sunshine Week will cosponsor the event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
The National FOI Day conference will serve as the anchor event for the week. Several nationally known speakers will discuss topics such as government secrecy and information leaks.
Open the Government.org will broadcast a teleconference called “Closed Doors; Open Democracies?” on the Internet on March 11. The actual event will take place at the National Press Club and will include panel discussions about open access to government information.
Bradlee, Brokaw and Woodruff will act primarily as spokespeople for the week. Bradlee, formerly the executive editor of The Washington Post, is now the newspaper’s vice president at large. Brokaw was the anchor and managing editor of “NBC Nightly News” until 2004 and now is a reporter and producer for NBC News documentaries. Woodruff, a Freedom Forum and Newseum trustee, anchors her own show on Bloomberg Television and is a correspondent for the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS.
Journalists in Mexico also recently announced that they will be celebrating México Abierto: La Transparencia es tu Derecho (Open Mexico: Transparency is your right), a week that will serve the same purpose as Sunshine Week and be held during the same period in March. Canada celebrated its Right to Know Week in September.
Melanie Bengtson is an intern at the First Amendment Center and a sophomore studying developmental politics at Belmont University.