Brechner Freedom of Information Project to Lead National Sunshine Week
The Joseph L. Brechner Freedom of Information Project at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications will educate Americans about the right to public records by coordinating national Sunshine Week, starting in March 2024.
The News Leaders Association (NLA), which has led Sunshine Week since 2005, is transferring the public awareness campaign to Brechner. The Brechner FOI Project has provided education and research in acquiring civic information since its inception in 1977.
Sunshine Week, to be held March 11-15, 2024, highlights the importance of open government and the dangers of excessive and unnecessary secrecy.
“It is an honor to carry on this decades-old tradition to inform the public about the legal rights to find out what their government is up to,” said David Cuillier, director of the Brechner FOI Project. “Research shows that freedom of information improves people’s lives and encourages government to be more accountable, cost-effective and honest.”
Sunshine Week has Florida roots, building on Florida Sunshine Sunday, which was founded in 2002. The program expanded to a full week nationally in 2005 through the American Society of News Editors (ASNE), with support from the John S. and James L. James L. Knight Foundation. In 2019, ASNE merged with the Associated Press Media Editors to become the News Leaders Association. On Dec. 8, the NLA board voted to dissolve the organization in June 2024.
“NLA is thankful that the Brechner Project will lead Sunshine Week and continue the important work of both celebrating and protecting access to public information and open government,” NLA President Alison Gerber said.
For decades, Sunshine Week has provided an annual rallying point for educational initiatives, including in-depth newspaper reporting projects, government proclamations, and public education through social media. All U.S. residents have the right to attend public meetings and see government documents through “sunshine laws,” shedding light on issues of public importance.
The Brechner FOI Project will carry on those traditions, collaborating with government agencies, news outlets and civil society groups. In particular, the Society of Professional Journalists will remain a strong collaborator in Sunshine Week, and other groups, such as MuckRock, have expressed interest in joining the effort. The Society of Professional Journalists, founded in 1909, partnered with ASNE in 1966 to encourage Congress to pass the Freedom of Information Act.
“Access to government information is more important than ever,” Cuillier said. “Brechner, the UF College of Journalism and Communications, and other organizations throughout the country will do their part in helping people exercise their right to know.”