Sunshine Week, the nationwide celebration of access to public information and what it means for you and your community, is March 15-21.
The Florida Society of Newspaper Editors launched Sunshine Sunday in 2002 in response to efforts by some Florida legislators to create scores of new exemptions to the state’s public records law. FSNE estimates that some 300 exemptions to open government laws were defeated in the legislative sessions that followed its three Sunshine Sundays, because of the increased public and legislative awareness that resulted from the Sunshine Sunday reports and commentary.
Several states followed Florida’s lead, and in June 2003, ASNE hosted a Freedom of Information Summit in Washington where the seeds for Sunshine Week were planted.
With an inaugural grant from John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which has continued to support the effort, Sunshine Week was launched by the American Society of News Editors in March 2005. This non-partisan, non-profit initiative is celebrated in mid-March each year to coincide with James Madison’s birthday on March 16.
In 2011, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press joined ASNE as a national co-coordinator of Sunshine Week, enabling the organizations to join forces and resources to produce Toolkit materials for participants and keep the website and social media sites engaged.
Though created by journalists, Sunshine Week is about the public’s right to know what its government is doing, and why.
Sunshine Week seeks to enlighten and empower people to play an active role in their government at all levels, and to give them access to information that makes their lives better and their communities stronger.
Participants include news media, government officials at all levels, schools and universities, libraries and archives, individuals, non-profit and civic organizations, historians and anyone with an interest in open government.
The coverage, commentaries and activities promoting open government during Sunshine Week have led to tangible, meaningful changes to people’s lives and the laws that govern them.
The Sunshine Week initiative is increasing public awareness, it’s coming up more often in policy conversations, and the efforts of participants are being cited as real forces for moving the public away from simply accepting excessive and unwarranted government secrecy.