Sunshine Week is next week. This specific week is not one many put on their calendars or plan parades to celebrate but it is important to all of us.
The American Society of News Editors initiated the annual observance in March 2005 to educate the public about the importance of open government and the dangers of excessive and unnecessary secrecy.
The designated week coincides with James Madison’s birthday and National Freedom of Information Day — both on March 16.
So what does this mean to Marion County residents?
It means that journalists at this newspaper will ask questions that need to be asked of government officials — the keepers of our tax money and the ones who make decisions that will affect our lives. It’s not always easy to ask the questions and we know it’s not always easy for officials to answer. But it is our job to ask and theirs to answer.
We’ll be at the meetings when policy is set and decisions are made. We’ll talk with public officials after the meetings and when news happens to find out the details. We’ll go that extra step because we owe it to you, our readers.
Asking questions about issues isn’t always popular and is sometimes uncomfortable but it has to be done.
We’re certain that most public officials — on a local level, anyway — are not purposely hiding information from us but when they are less than honest with us, it sure makes us wonder what is going on.
Just think where this community would be if county, city, and school officials could conduct business behind closed doors?
News is news — good or bad. No one wants to be the bearer of bad news — including us. But when bad news happens, public officials would be better off to give the information asked of them rather than trying to sugarcoat it. We’ll get to the truth, sooner or later, and when we do, we’re going to report it.
Public officials — appointed and elected — have a responsibility to constituents, including this newspaper. They should be open and honest because we all pay their salaries. They work for us.
There won’t be speeches or fanfare next week — even though there should be. Instead, reputable journalists will be reminded of our responsibility to our readers and officials.
We take that responsibility seriously — not just during Sunshine Week but every day.
— susan berg