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Everyone needs a little “Sunshine”

Blog, Sunshine Summit

27 Feb 2011

For outsiders, it’s one of those geeky get-togethers that journalists often have. But even if you’re not a journalist, I think you could have learned a thing or two. I’m talking about Saturday’s Ohio Sunshine Summit. Here’s the “Top Tweet” from the conference…

"If you write about records requests being refused, write about trying to get records for the public, not yourself. -Chip Mahaney"

Journalism is not about the reporter. We often think it’s all about appearing on TV or getting our byline in the paper. Those are important for us as student journalists because we need jobs, but the glory of doing great work comes from our intentions. It’s about the people we’re serving.

Tom Hodson
Tom Hodson is the heavily-credentialed Director of WOUB. Photo by Robert Stewart.

Tom Hodson, the Director of WOUB, hit the nail on the head in talking about the First Amendment. Those 45 words are important ones.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (USConstitution.net, emphasis mine)

The good folks who wrote this put “the freedom of speech” BEFORE freedom of the press. As Hodson puts it, journalists have this “elitist view” that we have more freedoms than the public. It shouldn’t be that way.

However, we have to start with reporters and news organizations. I’m not saying the conference topics were off course. In fact, they were spot-on. I just wish we could move a bit faster in getting everyone a bit more freedom. Meantime, I’m more than happy to be a student journalist in that elitist group.

Advancing the FIrst Amendment for journalists will advance those freedoms for everyone, Hodson says. Photo by me.
These are my "notes." Advancing the First Amendment for journalists will advance those freedoms for everyone, Hodson says. Photo by me.

I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do with my dozen pages of scribbled notes. Tristan Navera inspired me to start writing, and he has a great write-up about the Sunshine Summit on his blog.

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The sessions brought to light just how difficult it is for journalists to obtain government records both through their own ignorance of the law as well as difficulties in government relations. (Tristan Navera)

Over the next few weeks, I intend to delve into my notes and elaborate on some of the great quotes I pulled from the speakers.

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