This is Sunshine Week, which was started more than a decade ago. It promotes and celebrates the idea of open government and the role the media plays in ensuring government transparency.
The Shop Talk panelists said units of government and government agencies will sometimes fight the release of information and will sometimes drag their feet, hoping the reporter will give up trying to obtain the info.
Shop Talk panelist Will Buss emphasized that Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings Act laws were not written for journalists – they were actually drafted to ensure the general public has access to information. Buss called such access vital to democracy.
Panelist Jasmine Crighton feels governments are becoming less and less transparent. For example, the Trump administration told employees of the National Park Service not to tweet information to the public – even though those workers are public employees.
Panelist Rich Egger said both major political parties are guilty of such clampdowns. He said Democrat Rod Blagojevich restricted access to information when he was Illinois' governor. Egger said department heads and agency workers were often not allowed to speak with reporters without first receiving clearance from the administration.
Jasmine Crighton is News Director of NEWS3 at Western Illinois University and Will Buss is the Director of Student Publications at WIU.