January 29, 2009 By Wayne Hanson
In preparation for Sunshine Week March 15-21, a national government transparency project is under way to evaluate public records available on federal, state and local government Web sites.
The surveys are being coordinated by Sunshine Week, the American Society of Newspaper Editors' Freedom of Information Committee, the National Freedom of Information Coalition and the Society of Professional Journalists' FOI Committee.
Sunshine Week is a non-partisan open government initiative led by ASNE, with print, online and broadcast media; public officials; civic groups and non-profit organizations; public and special libraries; educators and students; religious leaders; and others. It is primarily funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
"Online access to public records is the next battleground for Freedom of Information advocates," said Andy Alexander, co-chair of ASNE's FOI Committee. "The results of this groundbreaking survey, which will be showcased during Sunshine Week, will provide the first comprehensive assessment of the extent to which citizens can access public records through their state government's Web site.
"The survey comes at a time when President Obama -- as well as a growing number of state and local government leaders -- are urging greater Internet access to records," added Alexander, former Washington bureau chief for Cox Newspapers, who will begin as ombudsman for The Washington Post in February.