By: E&P Staff
Hodding Carter III, the son of a newspaper publisher who went on to become a prominent journalist in his own right, will serve as honorary chairman for this year’s Sunshine Week March 12-18, it was announced Wednesday.
Sunshine Week is a national initiative led by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) to draw attention to the importance of open government and freedom of information (FOI) issues. This is the second year the campaign, which started with Florida newspapers in 2002, running “Sunshine Sunday” editorials opposed to the post-9/11 push by legislators to overturn or water down the state’s famously sweeping public documents and open meetings laws.
“Sunshine Week aims to empower the American people by demanding that government open its doors and allow a free flow of news and information — and I’m proud to be part of it,” Carter said in a statement. “With the totalitarian model of all-powerful Big Brother in retreat around the world, this is no time to tolerate it here at home.”
Carter started his journalism career as a reporter at the Delta Democrat-Times in Greenville, Miss., later becoming editor. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. In January 1977, Carter became State Department spokesman and assistant secretary of state for public affairs, serving during the Iran hostage crisis.
As a broadcast journalist, Carter won four national Emmys and the Edward R. Murrow Award for his “Inside Story” media criticism series. He was also a Wall Street Journal columnist for ten years, and was syndicated by United Media/NEA in the early 1990s.
Carter is a past president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which is funding the Sunshine Week initiative, and is now professor of leadership and public policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“His unparalleled experience at the highest levels of journalism and government bring to Sunshine Week a powerful resource that will help us build an even stronger presence in 2006,” said Andy Alexander, Cox Newspapers Washington bureau chief and chairman of ASNE’s Freedom of Information Committee.
Newspapers are encouraged to publish features, editorials, cartoons, and other information showing how open government benefits average Americans, and government secrecy harms the nation.
Among the new programs in this year’s campaign is publication of the first “Bright Ideas” book, featuring examples of some different approaches to Sunshine Week coverage and events from 2005. The book can be downloaded from the Sunshine Week Web site.
On March 17, the PBS weekly newsmagazine NOW will air a one-hour special about government secrecy as part of Sunshine Week. “The Sunshine Gang” will focus on the erosion of open government in America using the stories of whistleblowers.
Geneva Olverholser of the Missouri School of Journalism will host a panel discussion March 13 on the question “Are We Safer in the Dark?” The discussion at the National Press Club will be fed via satellite to host locations across the country, where there will be discussion of openness issues particular to their states and communities.
The League of Women Voters has selected 14 sites to receive small grants to help them host Sunshine Week events, and it has developed a resource guide of all its chapters planning events during the week.
During the week, a national survey looking at public perception of open government issues, conducted by the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, will be released.
Public service ads about open government will air on radio and television during the week. The ads were developed in conjunction with the Radio-Television News Directors Foundation.
Sunshine Week participants can download a free Toolkit materials at the campaign’s Web site, www.sunshineweek.org.