Sunshine Week 2017 reporting package

Below is the special reporting package of stories, photos, a video, columns, an editorial and cartoons for use during Sunshine Week 2017, March 12-18, and thereafter. The entire package is available free of charge for any participant to publish online and/or in print.

All of the materials are embargoed for publication at 12:01 a.m. EST Sunday, March 12.

This comprehensive work is produced by editors and reporters from The Associated Press, Associated Press Media Editors, Gannett, McClatchy, The Dallas Morning News and the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Additional opinion columns, editorial cartoons, logos and other materials are available in the Sunshine Week Toolkit.

Sunshine Week 2017 is made possible by an endowment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and by a generous donation from The Gridiron Club and Foundation.

For more information about Sunshine Week, visit Follow Sunshine Week on Twitter and Facebook, and use the hashtag #SunshineWeek.

Sunshine Week budget

NEW YORK _ Journalism marks its annual Sunshine Week at an extraordinary moment in the relationship between the presidency and the press. First Amendment advocates call the Trump administration the most hostile to the press and free expression in memory. In words and actions, they say, Trump and his administration have threatened democratic principles and the general spirit of a free society. Yet free speech advocates say the press, at least on legal issues, is well positioned to withstand Trump. By Hillel Italie. 1,300 words. Photos. Video.

WASHINGTON _ Wondering who is visiting the White House? The web-based search has gone dark. Curious about climate change? Some government sites have been softened or taken down. Worried about racial discrimination in housing? Laws have been introduced to bar federal mapping of such disparities. Federal rules protecting whistleblowers? At least one has been put on hold. Since taking office, the Trump administration has made a series of moves that have alarmed groups with a stake in public access to information. Some are so concerned they have thrown themselves into “data rescue” sessions nationwide, where they spend their weekends downloading and archiving federal databases they fear could soon be taken down or obscured. Previous presidential transitions have triggered fears about access to government data, but not on this scope. By Stuart Leavenworth and Adam Ashton, McClatchy. 1,500 words. Photos. An abridged version also is moving.

Fake news, social media bots, a post-fact world. One of the great lessons of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign is that people could not _ or would not _ distinguish between actual news stories and fabrications. More fact-checking may or not be the answer, given the information bubbles most people inhabit and a president-elect who routinely distorts reality to create his own narratives. Why is it important to solve the fake news conundrum, and is it even solvable? By Gannett. Photo.

DALLAS _ When Texans ask state and local officials for records detailing their operations, more and more the answer is no. The reason why is in dispute. A quirk of the Texas public records law, adopted almost 45 years ago, says that when officials deny the public the right to see something, they usually have to run that decision by the state attorney general’s office. The number of those denials has been soaring. In the fiscal year that ended in August 2001, governments forwarded about 5,000 denied record requests to the attorney general’s office for review. That number had jumped to more than 27,000 by 2016. By Terri Langford, The Dallas Morning News. 1,300 words. Photos.

As I’ve listened to President Donald Trump go on tirades against the “very dishonest” media, I’ve tried not to take his criticism personally. Lord knows, I’ve made my share of mistakes in my career. But they’ve never been on purpose, or out of malice. So here’s the truth: The press is not the opposition party. The media is not the enemy of the American people. Negative stories are not fake news.  And when Trump keeps making these claims, he isn’t just attacking the press; he is chipping away at one of the pillars of our democracy. By Foon Rhee, The Sacramento Bee. 900 words. Photo.
_ Editorial cartoons related to Sunshine Week from around the country. View here: More cartoons will be added Sunday, March 12.

Now, more than ever, Americans are urged to recognize the importance of open government to a robust democracy. Access to meetings, minutes and records of our elected and appointed representatives is a key element of the constitutional right to petition the government for redress of grievances. It is not strictly for the benefit of the news media. By ASNE President Mizell Stewart III, Gannett/USA TODAY Network. 650 words. Photo.

A new national study sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation describes the current battleground over freedom of information in America – Pinpointing the problems and the solutions needed for the United States to once again be a world leader in open government. By the study’s author, David Cuillier of the University of Arizona and its consulting editor, Eric Newton of Arizona State University.

Budget for later in the year

The increasing importance of whistleblower protections in today’s world. Gannett will do for later in the year.