ARLINGTON, VA: The third annual national "Sunshine Week" took place this week, as journalists united to press for better access to public records.
The weeklong effort, which relies on the participation of news organizations across the country, is funded by a grant from the Knight Foundation. And although it only lasts a week, its organization and promotion is a year-round job.
Debra Gersh Hernandez, who coordinates the event on behalf of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, said that her job encompasses everything from securing the participation of media outlets to promoting the event beforehand and touting its results afterwards.
"[It involves] a lot of outreach and a lot of partnership building," she said.
The events of the week largely focus on participating organizations, including newspapers, journalism professors, media professional societies, and others, testing the compliance of their local and state governments to applicable open records laws. A prototypical action would be a reporter requesting a set of records, and then writing an article detailing how well the government succeeded in providing them.
Hernandez said participation has increased over the years. She is now at work compiling the results of this year's actions.
The effort has succeeded in prodding many local, state, and national politicians to focus on open records laws.
"We have seen definite cases of improvement," she said