In 2002, the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors launched Sunshine Sunday, an initiative designed to compel Florida lawmakers to keep public records accessible – and open to everyone. The success of Sunshine Sunday quickly caught on and, under the auspices of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, became Sunshine Week, marked in the middle of each March.
During the observance, newspapers and media outlets across the country write stories and editorials, and spearhead campaigns and public events, to encourage open-records laws and underscore struggles to gain access to information.
While the age of the digital journalist demonstrates that journalists are becoming quite skilled at mining data to advance traditional watchdog journalism, the decade-long dramatic downsizing of newsrooms has greatly hindered widespread, sustained and meaningful database-driven reporting. There simply aren’t enough bodies left in newsrooms to do the all the work that needs to be done.
But as reported in several Trends Journal and Trends Monthly stories during the last year, the Edward Snowden revelations about National Security Agency spying and data breaches have inspired a new generation of not only media watchdogs, but neighborhood watchdogs.
Across the globe, entrepreneurial digital outlets are being created to provide platforms to dig up, organize and share data about practices and actions of businesses, governments and other institutions.
Sunshine Week is also for them – the next generation of citizen journalists, equipped with the digital know-how and tools to uncover, reveal and prompt action.