In anticipation of its third annual "Sunshine Week" in March, the American Society of News Editors is sponsoring an award for "Local Heroes" of open government.
"There's a lot of attention on Washington, but open government at the local level is really important," said ASNE's Richard Karpel. "We want to highlight somebody who hasn't gotten the publicity they deserve."
Karpel said the Local Hero award is open to everyday folks as well as reporters. "A lot of times when people think of open government they think of media, but if you look at [Freedom of Information Act] laws, citizens use them even more than media."
Do you have a local muckraker? Someone who harangues officials at zoning commission hearings about doing their business in the open? Or exposes important information your local government tries to keep secret? Nominate that person.
Sunshine Week is designed to promote awareness of the importance of transparent government. (It's not affiliated with the Sunlight Foundation, though the goals are the same.)
"Though spearheaded by journalists, Sunshine Week is about the public's right to know what its government is doing, and why," says the Sunshine Week website. "Sunshine Week seeks to enlighten and empower people to play an active role in their government at all levels, and to give them access to information that makes their lives better and their communities stronger."
Here's the release about the award from the American Society of News Editors:
Sunshine Week contest to honor 'Local Heroes' of open government
This year's Sunshine Week celebration will honor individuals who fought tirelessly last year to make their state or local public institutions more open and accessible.
During Sunshine Week (March 14-20) media organizations and other groups throughout the nation will highlight the efforts of these Local Heroes whose work has made their communities better places to live.
In addition to that coverage, the American Society of News Editors will conduct a contest to identify the top three Local Heroes of 2010.
The first-place winner will receive an all-expenses paid trip in April to Washington, D.C., to be honored at the 2010 ASNE convention. The second- and third-place winners will receive $500 and $250, respectively. All of the winners will be profiled on the Sunshine Week Web site, and their accomplishments will be publicized by Sunshine Week staff and participating groups.
Sunshine Week, launched in 2005 by ASNE, is held annually to promote dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include hundreds of print, broadcast and online news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public's right to know.
Some examples of the kinds of achievements that might qualify for Local Hero status include the following:
* A citizen who launched a successful campaign to open local public meetings.
* A blogger who filed a state or federal FOIA request or sued a public institution under FOIA laws and uncovered previously hidden information that had a major impact in their community.
* An investigative reporter whose use of state or federal public-records laws revealed a threat that moved local officials to make changes that protected the safety of local citizens.
ASNE encourages local media and civic organizations to nominate one of their own employees or members to compete for a Local Hero prize. Nominations may be submitted by completing a brief form on the Sunshine Week Web site and uploading supporting materials. The deadline for nominations is Friday, Feb. 26.
Winners will be announced the following week.
If you have any questions about the contest or Sunshine Week, please contact Cristal Williams Chancellor at 703-453-1138 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunshine Week is funded primarily by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation of Miami. Sunshine Week also has received major organizational support from the National Freedom of Information Coalition the Society of Professional Journalists, the Radio and Television Digital News Association and others who have partnered to ensure that it thrives and grows.
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