Does it seem a little brighter to you? No, we’re not talking about Daylight Saving Time. It’s time again to observe Sunshine Week, a celebration of light and openness in government.
Sunshine Week emphasizes the public’s right to know, and government’s duty to do its business in the open and to keep citizens informed. During the past few decades, citizens and the media have made gains in keeping government open and information available.
In Texas, the shield law protecting journalists and their sources, which was enacted in 2009, continues to work well. Shield laws are vital to government openness. Reporters must be able to promise whistleblowers and other sources that their identities can be protected. Otherwise, few would come forward. The Texas law is well-written and has proven itself in a number of court tests.
Locally, the Tyler City Council will soon put its agenda packets online prior to its biweekly city council meetings. Posted agendas are an important way to keep the public informed of what a governmental body will be deliberating, but agendas are only part of the picture. The agenda packet - which includes the background documents and other information - give a much more complete picture.
We commend the City Council for this move toward even greater transparency.
But there have been recent setbacks in open government in recent months, as well. The Trump administration’s view of the press as “the enemy of the people” is troubling - and wrong.
As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis noted, “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.”