Making the most of Sunshine Week online

I like my government to be accountable to me, since I’m paying for it, and since they’ve got all the big guns. So every year, I look forward to “Sunshine Week” – a campaign spearheaded by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) that encourages news organizations to highlight current threats to open government. This year, Sunshine Week is March 12-18.

ASNE has published a fairly extensive Bright Ideas booklet showcasing various news organizations’ Sunshine Week efforts from years past. While that booklet offers some guidance for mainstream media web sites (mainly focused on “special web pages“), much more can be done with Sunshine Week online.

Here are a few ideas for putting the new tools of social and conversational media to use for this project….

  1. Tagging: When you see an intriguing Sunshine Week-related news item, blog posting, or other online tidbit or resource, take a moment to tag it with sunshine+week in popular social bookmarking services such as Del.icio.us and Furl, or in the photo-sharing site Flickr. This will make it easy for interested people to discover and contribute to a collaborative catalogue of Sunshine Week activities and issues. Even better, you can use those services to subscribe to a tag-specific feed, so you can effortlessly receive a steady stream of Sunshine Week news.

  2. Blogging: ASNE started its own Sunshine Week Blog, but it’s pretty sparse so far. Seems like a ripe opportunity someone could pounce on. However, even if you you don’t want to start a whole blog about Sunshine Week, if you have an existing blog you can easily add an “open government” category to accommodate relevant items.

  3. Wikis: Right now, there’s no Wikipedia page on Sunshine Week. There should be! I’ll start one if I have time, but if someone else wants to take that idea and run with it, great! At the very least, there should be a WikiNews page on it (hint, hint). SourceWatch could use one, too.

  4. Citizen Journalism: Sunshine Week is about safeguarding democracy – which means its not just for professional journalists and news organizations. This can be a great opportunity to energize citizen journalism efforts; as well as to highlight how some citizen journalists are using FOIA and other tools. After all, one reason why citizen journalism is so intriguing is its potential to become a powerful way to ensure open government. The more people we have chipping away at government secrecy, the better. Over at I, Reporter today I posted some Sunshine Week tips for citizen journalists.

  5. Flashmobs: A “flashmob” happens when people (often strangers) assemble suddenly in a public place, do something unusual or notable, and then disperse. These events usually are coordinated via the internet or other digital communication networks. One site used for this purpose is Flashmob.com. Imagine how this technique could be applied creatively to government meetings, hearings, etc. which are not as public as they should be.

  6. Forums and Communities: Government secrecy can touch on almost any aspect of life – business, education, civil liberties, healthcare, the environment, you name it. This means that many online forum and communities have some occasional or potential connection to government secrecy issues. Sunshine Week may be a good opportunity to raise these issues in your online discussion groups.

And, of course, you can subscribe to and heartily recommend the premiere online newsletter on government secrecy, “Secrecy News,” published by the Federation of American Scientists. This weekly newsletter is tirelessly, relentlessly, meticulously written and edited by Steven Aftergood – one of my personal heroes.

…Those are just a few ideas off the top of my head. What do you think of them, or about Sunshine Week in general? What other ideas would you suggest? Comment below.

2 thoughts on Making the most of Sunshine Week online

  1. Those are some great ideas. The example of citizen journalists using FOIA is sterling, and I can’t wait to see a flashmob used that way.

  2. I liked your ideas and, particularly, some of the links you gave. Thank you.

    ASNE is unlikely to achieve its stated goals as believe its mostly lipservice. In recent times, they have spent the last few years voluntarily agreeing to change stories or withhold information at the request of government on a number of issues. Many of those times, they should not have. I think the watchers no longer watch, but only talk about it in rote habit to keep up appearances.

    Journalism is in a very interesting stage. The longer term effects of consolidation are being found out while, at the same time, citizen journalism is experiencing a mass rejuvenation via the internet. In fact, I think that goes hand in hand with your previous post about the much predicted death of blogs.

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