This is Sunshine Week, a week set aside to stress the importance of governments operating in sunshine, under public scrutiny.
Because several journalism-based organizations are sponsors of Sunshine Week, there is a tendency by some to see the week as part of an ongoing rift between reporters and the government.
But most people who exercise “sunshine rights” are not reporters. Bloggers, political liberals, political conservatives, interested citizens, people who feel their rights are threatened by government, Second Amendment activists, unions and dozens of other groups frequently exercise their rights to take a close look at governmental operations, even when governments don’t particularly want the public to see what they are up to.
We certainly have a better idea of the inside workings of the state Senate after a Great Falls Tribune reporter uncovered emails that showed a bitter rift between two factions of the Senate Republican caucus.
Pulling back the curtain on governmental operations is helpful to the public in understanding why and how their government works.
We are blessed in Montana with a state constitution and laws that strongly protect the public’s right to know. But the guard must always be up.
Last year, Montana Policy Institute had to jump through all kinds of hoops to get information on public salaries. And reporters, citizens, lobbyists and others are often thwarted in getting information from municipal governments in the state.
Many fear that recent court rulings will make it more difficult to find out just who is financing the many negative commercials we were forced to sit through last fall.
So there is much for Montanas to celebrate during Sunshine Week, but the week is also a reminder that the age of new technology makes it easier for some in government to hide behind a cloud of technological secrecy.