Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

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March 19, 2014

OUR VIEW: Watchdog role can be filled by more than journalists

GLASGOW — This is Sunshine Week, an annual national celebration, so to speak, of open government and the public’s right to know.

Sunshine Week is organized by journalists, who are also the primary observers of the occasion. That’s understandable, since asking questions, serving as a watchdog and holding elected officials accountable are all parts of a reporter’s job description. At the Daily Times, we are proud to serve that role, and we appreciate that Sunshine Week illuminates our constitutional right to probe the activities of our public servants.

That duty is not exclusive to journalists, however. Among the themes of Sunshine Week is that reporters don’t have any more or greater access to public information than any other citizen. Sure, we have been trained – or have gained experience – in obtaining and deciphering records and documents, and many public agencies employ staff specifically to deal with reporters’ questions and requests. But publicly available information is the foundation of what reporters do.

So, while the news media certainly embraces its responsibility to the public, we encourage the public get involved as well. It’s an election year, which is a perfect time for voters to make politicians earn every vote they get. Demand real answers from candidates, research their previous public activities and engage them in substantive debate and discussion.

Transparency in government is an ideal shared by everyone, not just the press. So, our public officials are more likely to operate openly if they feel everyone is watching, not just the press.

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