‘Sunshine Week’ is for you, us

Published 11:28 am Thursday, March 16, 2017

This week — March 12-18 — is “Sunshine Week,” a nationwide celebration of access to public information.

Sunshine Week is all about your right to know.

Newspapers across the country, including this one, find it particularly important to recognize Sunshine Week because access to public records and transparency of government is crucial to our business.

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As community journalists, we act as “watchdogs” for our readers by being at the local government meetings you may be unable to attend, by accessing police records and court documents that dig deeper into the stories that matter to you and by using our skills and knowledge about open records laws to get to the bottom of issues impacting our community.

Although journalists and newspapers often have more ease accessing records, the law in Kentucky provides all citizens the same access to public records.

The Kentucky Freedom of Information Act outlines the laws about open meetings and open records, which are the documents, information and proceedings that must be made available to the public with few exceptions.

Nearly every day, our reporters take advantage of these laws to do their jobs. In today’s paper, you will find several stories that could not have been written without these vital freedoms and the cooperation of government agencies that understand the media’s role.

In Kentucky and nationwide, there are examples recently of how some people and agencies want to stifle the public’s right to this information — just look at the lawsuits over access to records at several public universities and even our president’s desire to keep the media out of the White House.

As journalists, it is our job to push forward, to delve further when information is denied, but it is just as much your right and responsibility to ensure this information remains available to the public.

The fact of the matter is, open records and open meetings promote public trust, hold our elected officials accountable and offer transparency about how tax dollars are spent, among other things.

Although we take this week to celebrate this freedom of information, we must preserve these rights always so we can remain a better-informed society.

These laws are not just for journalists, they are for you.