Sunshine Week 2010 at a glance

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Today marks the kickoff of the sixth annual Sunshine Week, a national initiative in which journalism and other organizations promote open government and freedom of information.

During Sunshine Week, which runs through March 20, many newspapers, broadcast outlets, Internet operations and other media will be reporting on government attempts to block the public’s right to know — and the steps taken to counter those moves.

At the same time, civic, academic and other non-media groups will be discussing their interest in making sure that access to government records is protected.

Each year, Sunshine Week takes place around James Madison’s birthday (March 16) and National FOI Day. Participants include journalists, schools, librarians, nonprofits and members of the public. Organizations hosting events for Sunshine Week include the First Amendment Center, and American University Washington College of Law.

Among the events scheduled for this week:

  • The First Amendment Center will host the 12th annual National FOI Day Conference, “What has become of Freedom of Information?” tomorrow at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The conference will feature a session with Miriam Nesbit, director of the Office of Government Information, and Norm Eisen, special counsel to President Obama for Ethics and Government Reform. In addition, Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives, will be the keynote speaker.

  • American University Washington College of Law will hold its Third Annual Freedom of Information Day Celebration tomorrow. The event, hosted by the law school’s Collaboration on Government Secrecy, will feature a keynote address by John D. Podesta, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress and former White House chief of staff. Podesta will also receive the 2010 Robert Vaughn FOIA Legend Award, which will be presented by last year’s recipient, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

  • The Minnesota Coalition on Government Information will host its Freedom of Information Day & Award Ceremony on Tuesday, March 16. Keynote speaker for the event will be Chief Justice Eric J. Magnuson of the Minnesota Supreme Court.

  • will host a Sunshine Week 2010 Webcast on Friday, March 19. The event will feature three panels discussing open-government initiatives instituted by President Obama’s administration and their effect on the public.

Sunshine Week is a nonpartisan, national effort that spotlights the importance of a free flow of information and shines light on government attempts to work in the shadows. The initiative began eight years ago with Sunshine Sunday in Florida, organized by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors and the First Amendment Foundation. It came in response to legislative efforts to thwart open government through dozens of proposed exemptions to the state’s Sunshine Law, one of the nation’s strongest affirmations of the freedom of public information.

Sunshine Sunday swiftly spread to other states and eventually across the nation. In 2005, supported by grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the American Society of Newspaper Editors expanded the concept and launched Sunshine Week.

More information about Sunshine Week, including toolkits and a list of regional coordinators, can be found at