Two Wisconsin newspaper editors write a “Your Right to Know” monthly syndicated column on behalf of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, a staunch and effective proponent of open records and open meetings in my state.
This month’s column, ‘Sunshine’ law wins enforce openness details some recent wins and concludes:
In a time when government officials at all levels routinely deny public information requests and cook up schemes to meet in secret, these cases serve as strong reminders that government business almost always ought to be conducted in the bright light of openness.
The heros of openness mentioned in the article are all mainstream daily newspapers in Wisconsin.
These newspapers deserve to be commended for investing the time, care, and funding to pursue these cases.
I’d prefer it if articles like this included the role of average everyday citizens (or troublemaking malcontents, depending on your perspective) in sunshine cases.
It’s important to avoid conveying the impression that we can rely on the mainstream daily press to be our sunshine heroes. They increasingly don’t have the time or resources to pursue all the open records investigations that ought to be initiated.
“I felt like they blew me off totally” from an Illinois paper this morning conveys the gritty realities of what often happens when Jane or Joe Citizen file an open records request.
It’s not the media that’s the victim. Last year, just plain folks outnumbered reporters by more than 6-1 in seeking help from the attorney general to get public records. In 2005, Mutchler handled 234 inquiries from ordinary citizens seeking help in getting public documents from various government agencies. An additional 27 requests came from journalists.
This installment is the first of a six-part series.