Federal data is disappearing from websites. Concerns are growing about whistleblower protections. The public is faced with inconsistent access to information like police dashcam video. Attacks on the First Amendment continue.
This year, more than ever, ASNE and multiple media partners will use Sunshine Week, March 12-18, to hold government officials accountable for their transparency, or secrecy, around public records. For 12 years, our Sunshine Week coverage has championed the public’s right to information and revealed threats to those rights. This year, we will extend that week of focus to coverage throughout 2017.
ASNE is partnering with The Associated Press, Associated Press Media Editors, Gannett, McClatchy, The Dallas Morning News and the Minneapolis Star Tribune on coverage available to all during Sunshine Week and thereafter. ASNE’s First Amendment Committee leaders Joyce Terhaar, executive editor of The Sacramento Bee, and Robyn Tomlin, managing editor of The Dallas Morning News, are spearheading this special reporting project.
AP will distribute a full advisory of coverage March 6 for the kickoff week starting March 12. For an early look at story budgets, see below, or go to the ASNE Sunshine Week page or the Toolkit at sunshineweek.org. In addition to stories, we’ll update these story budgets with columns and editorial cartoons.
This coverage is free for broad distribution in print and/or online, and we encourage you to use it. News organizations work year-round to protect the public’s right to know and force government transparency. Sunshine Week, launched by ASNE in 2005 and promoted with the support of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press since the partnership in 2012, gives us a forum to discuss the importance of open government and freedom of information. Various news organizations, libraries, universities, civic groups, nonprofits and other individuals have been active participants.
Sunshine Week 2017 is made possible by an endowment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and by a donation from The Gridiron Club and Foundation.
Follow Sunshine Week on Twitter and Facebook, and use the hashtag #SunshineWeek. Send any celebration plans and events, as well as editorials and cartoons, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunshine Week budget (Stories will be moved on the AP wire March 8 for use during March 12-18 and thereafter. Also, stories will be posted March 9 and 10 on the ASNE and Sunshine Week websites, embargoed for publication at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, March 12.)
SUNSHINE WEEK-FIRST AMENDMENT
The running political battles over gun rights and gun control have made the Second Amendment one of the most hotly debated and defended parts of the U.S. Constitution. But what of the provision that precedes it _ the First Amendment? Perhaps at no time since the country’s founding has the initial entry in the Bill of Rights been so misunderstood. No one is advocating a constitutional amendment to undo that part of the First Amendment that ensures freedom of the press. But what it stands for _ an independent and robust press that informs the citizenry about its government and political leaders _ is under extreme pressure. With phony news stories sprouting like fungus online and a president who spreads falsehoods, threatens to loosen libel laws and delights in attacking legitimate journalism, it is more important than ever to learn why the founders not only enshrined freedom of the press in the Constitution but why they included it in the very first item of the Bill of Rights. By Hillel Italie/Associated Press. 1,200 words.
SUNSHINE WEEK-INFORMATION UNDER ATTACK
The USDA scrubbed animal welfare data from its website. The Trump administration reportedly instructed the EPA to remove the climate change page from its website, and then backed off. Gun violence researchers are racing to preserve data on the CDC website. Access to government data is shaping up to be one of the most significant public records issues facing the American public under the Trump administration. While the Obama administration was rightfully criticized for its response to Freedom of Information Act requests, it did use technology to open up records to the public. Early signs from the new administration are not encouraging. This is a federal issue with immediate local impact since online records allow any citizen access to information from the convenience of their home. Examples: Environmental records — what did EPA spend on cleanup on a community-by-community basis? What did the Army Corp of Engineers do to build levees by community? What about the ability to inspect highway records from the FTA? All online records increase transparency. By Stuart Leavenworth/McClatchy D.C., bureau, with contributions.
SUNSHINE WEEK-DAZED AND CONFUSED
Fake news, social media bots, a post-fact world. One of the great lessons of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign is that people could not – or would not – distinguish between actual news stories and fabrications. Can we do anything about it? More fact-checking may or not work, given people’s increasing desire to believe only what they want to believe. Even at the highest level of government, the White House, distorted reality has been defended as a legitimate “alternative reality.” Why is it important to solve the fake news conundrum, and is it even solvable? By Gannett D.C., bureau.
BURSTING THE BUBBLE
The flood of made-up stories circulating online during the presidential campaign did more than just draw attention to the phenomenon of fake or distorted news. It also revealed in disturbing ways how Americans _ and all wired people around the world _ live in information bubbles. Facebook algorithms shoulder some of the blame for stuffing its users’ newsfeeds only with articles they are likely to agree with, but the public also is voluntarily retreating into isolating thought chambers. How to get people to engage with ideas that run counter to their personal beliefs will be one of the great challenges between now and the next presidential election. Some people and groups are already devising possible solutions. By Gannett D.C., bureau.
In Texas, reporters seeking public documents and data are increasingly running into a road block: the state attorney general’s office. In recent years the agency, the arbiter of the state’s open records laws, has been flooded with requests from governments at all levels seeking to withhold information. The agency almost always allows them to do so. What’s behind the surge? By The Dallas Morning News w/chart.
Budlines TK: We expect at least two columns to supplement this package. First is by ASNE President Mizell Stewart. Second is by Eric Newton of Knight Foundation on Sunshine Week’s offer of great opportunities for journalism students to be the bridge between tech companies, media companies and lawyers to discuss free expression issues.
Budline TK: On defense of the First Amendment. By Dan Morain/Sacramento Bee.
Jack Ohman, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Cartooning, will deliver a cartoon for publication March 12 and thereafter. He also has committed to twisting at least a couple of arms of colleagues across the country to get more cartoonist voices in the mix for Sunshine Week. Details TK.
Budget for later in the year
The increasing importance of whistleblower protections in today’s world. Gannett will do for later in the year.