I am very pleased to have a guest Byte writer this week. Some of you know the author; many will recognize the name – Mary Treacy as she’s my aunt. I’m posting this a little early so that anyone interested in attending the event at St Kate’s will have time to RSVP. If you want more details on the event at St Kate’s, please let me know and I’ll pass them on.
The calendar notwithstanding, the week of March 13-19, 2006 is Sunshine Week, thus declared by a host of press, library, education and government watchdogs committed to Freedom of Information. The week wraps around Freedom of Information Day, historically celebrated by these same groups on March 16, the birth date of James Madison, fierce defender of access and an informed citizenry. (Local note: The faithful will gather at Coeur de Catherine Center at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul on the evening of March 16 (6:00-8:00) to honor the awardee and commemorate the occasion.)
Seems like a good time to consider a wide range of issues – the role of a free press, public libraries as an essential resource, privacy, open government, information access and information literacy in a democracy.
There are countless resources on the web: Many that were originally developed for the press of practical use to a broad constituency. The Freedom of Information Center at the University of Missouri (www.foi.missouri.edu ) is a good starting point, reflecting the diverse National Freedom of Information Coalition. Two other sites concentrate on the press angle, but offer tools that can be used by any organization or individual interested in forging through the legal, technological and political jungle.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (www.rofp.org) and the Student Press Law Center (www.splc.org) both offer concrete tips and useful tools for anyone who wants info on open records or meetings FOIA or issues in the post 9/11 era. There’s a ton of information, including the essential “How to File an FOIA Request,” on the First Amendment Center website (www.firstamendmentcenter.org)
Anyone who intends to instigate some local action should check the Sunshine
Week website (http://www.sunshineweek.org) for a downloadable copy of the 72-page “Bright Ideas” book featuring promo ideas in every format for any audience. Watch for PSA’s on TV and radio and a PBS NOW one-hour special on March 17 which will focus on the erosion of open government through the stories of whistleblowers. (If March 17 isn’t a TV-news-viewing-night for you, it will most likely be broadcast.)
Submitted by Mary Treacy for the Minnesota Coalition on Government
Information (MnCogi) www.mncogi.org