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From the Publisher's Desk


Dear Readers,

As the publisher of the West Plains Daily Quill and West Plains Gazette, it is my distinct honor to discuss an event of paramount importance not only to our profession but to the very fabric of our democracy: National Sunshine Week.

This weeklong observance, dedicated to promoting open government and pushing back against unnecessary secrecy, is a cornerstone of our collective effort to ensure an informed citizenry. Its implications stretch far beyond the realm of journalism, touching the lives of every American by reinforcing the principles of transparency and accountability that are so crucial to our national ethos.

Sunshine Week's origins can be traced back to the early 2000s, a period marked by growing concerns over the erosion of access to public information. Spearheaded by the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) in 2005, with the support of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, this initiative was inspired by Florida's Sunshine Sunday, a state-level campaign that began in 2002. Florida's Sunshine Sunday was a response to attempts by the state legislature to create new exemptions to the state's public records law. The success of this effort in curbing such exemptions highlighted the potential impact of a nationwide initiative aimed at advocating for open government.

The inception of Sunshine Week was not merely a call to arms for journalists but a clarion call to all citizens who believe in the principles of transparency and accountability. It is held annually in March to coincide with James Madison's birthday, a Founding Father known for his advocacy for openness in government and considered the architect of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

At its core, Sunshine Week serves a dual purpose: It is both a celebration of the access to public information that we currently enjoy and a reminder of the constant vigilance required to protect this access from erosion. The week highlights the ongoing struggles against attempts to weaken the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), introduce new exemptions to state sunshine laws, and restrict access to public meetings and records.

Sunshine Week is instrumental in educating the public about their right to know what their government is doing and why. This observance empowers citizens to hold their elected officials accountable, fosters a more transparent government, and encourages a more engaged and informed electorate. By bringing to light issues of government secrecy and the efforts to combat it, Sunshine Week plays a critical role in upholding the democratic principle that government should be open and accessible to the people it serves.

The significance of Sunshine Week extends far beyond the confines of newsrooms and media organizations. In an age where misinformation and disinformation are rampant, ensuring the public's access to accurate and transparent information is more crucial than ever. Sunshine Week underscores the idea that a transparent government is the foundation of a healthy democracy. It reminds us that in order to make informed decisions, whether at the ballot box or in our daily lives, we need access to clear and truthful information about the workings of our government.

Furthermore, Sunshine Week highlights the interconnectedness of transparency, accountability, and trust. A government that operates in the shadows breeds suspicion and undermines the public's trust. By advocating for open government, we are not only striving for a more informed public but also for a more just and equitable society where trust between the government and its citizens can flourish.

As we observe National Sunshine Week, let us renew our commitment to the principles of open government. This observance is a powerful reminder that the fight for transparency and accountability is ongoing, requiring the vigilance and participation of not just journalists, but every American. In the spirit of Sunshine Week, let us pledge to hold our government to the highest standards of openness, ensuring that the sun never sets on the public's right to know.

The importance of Sunshine Week cannot be overstated. It serves as an annual check on government power, a celebration of our rights to public information, and a rallying cry for all who believe in the fundamental principles of democracy. Let us all embrace the spirit of Sunshine Week, understanding that transparency is not just a journalist's fight, but a right and responsibility that belongs to every American.

Warm Regards,
Chris Herbolsheimer
West Plains Daily Quill & West Plains Gazette