Sunshine Week

March 14 - 20, 2021

Each year in March, news media organizations across the country take this time to highlight the importance of transparency in our government, and we underscore the vital work our journalists do to fight for access to records that shed light on government activity. Even a public-health crisis as devastating as COVID-19 will not stop journalists from reporting news and information that matter most to our readers – whether at a school board, township supervisor or city council meeting.

You can rest assured knowing that before, during and after Sunshine Week, the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association (PNA) continues to advocate, on your behalf, for more access to essential information from all levels of government. We remain focused on three key transparency issues – for public agencies to record executive sessions, for requiring agencies to provide agendas in advance of meetings so the public can attend and participate in issues that matter to them and for keeping public notices in newspapers.

Sunshine Week Promotional Advertising Campaign

Complete the form below to access the 2021 Sunshine Week Advertising Package.

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The PNA has designed a series of print ads for you to run in celebration of Sunshine Week from March 14-20.

Sunshine Week Editorial

Kay Stephens, an Altoona Mirror reporter since 1977, longtime Pennsylvania Women’s Press Association officer and supporter of open government, has provided a Sunshine Week editorial for PNA members to run in their publications, both in print and online.  Please use the links below to download the column.

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Kay Stephens Headshot

Sunshine Week Column

Ken Paulson, the director of the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University, a lawyer and a former editor-in-chief of USA Today, has provided a Sunshine Week column for PNA members to run in their publications, both in print and online.  Please use the links below to download the column.

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The Free Speech Center

The Free Speech Center is a nonpartisan, nonprofit public policy center dedicated to building understanding of the five freedoms of the First Amendment through education, information and engagement.

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PNA Sunshine Week Training

The Sunshine Act: Pennsylvania’s Open Meetings Law

March 18, 2021
Noon

Can’t miss! This session includes an important review of the Sunshine Act as well as a chance to meet the new Executive Director of the PA Office of Open Records.

Melissa Melewsky, PNA’s Media Law Counsel, reviews Pennsylvania’s Open Meetings Law, touching on public comment, executive sessions and other topics that frequently challenge coverage. She’ll take a closer look at any changes, including how the pandemic has affected public access.

Melissa will be joined by Liz Wagenseller, the newly-appointed Executive Director of the PA Office of Open Records. During this introduction, Liz will share her thoughts and visions for the OOR and will take questions.

Most appropriate for editorial staff, especially newcomers and those desiring a refresher course.

There is no cost for PNA members.

PaFOIC Sunshine Week Training

A virtual celebration and discussion of transparency in the Keystone State

March 16, 2021
11 AM

Join the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Coalition on Tuesday, March 16, 2021, for a virtual discussion of transparency in the Keystone State in celebration of Sunshine Week.

The event will bring together journalists, media law attorneys, researchers and transparency advocates to talk about the challenges and successes of Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law and Sunshine Act, as well as tips for using the federal Freedom of Information Act.

What are the Sunshine Act and Right to Know Law?

Sunshine Week LogoThe Sunshine Act and Right to Know Law are Pennsylvania’s primary public access laws. These laws guarantee the public’s right to access government information at public meetings and through public records. Public access to meetings and records is fundamental to the public’s ability to understand government actions and hold government officials accountable.

The Sunshine Act

The Sunshine Act applies to public agencies, which include Pennsylvania executive branch agencies, the General Assembly, and municipal authorities, such as township boards of supervisors and local school boards. The Act requires agencies to hold public meetings any time a quorum deliberates agency business or takes official action. As with many laws, there are exceptions to the public meeting requirements of the Sunshine Act, but the law begins with a statement of intent, stressing the right of the public to witness the decision-making process to ensure that the democratic process functions properly.

The Right to Know Law

The Right to Know Law applies to executive branch agencies and local agencies, including school districts, townships, other municipalities, and authorities. The law also applies on a limited basis to the General Assembly and to the court system’s financial records. The law begins with the presumption that records in the possession of government agencies are public records and must be provided within the framework of the law. There are exemptions to the law that allow agencies to deny public access, but the law places the burden of proof on an agency to show why a requested record is not public.

 

Sunshine Week Resolution

Chairman David Argall (R-Schuylkill), Senate State Government Committee, has introduced Senate Resolution 34 honoring Sunshine Week, which is March 14-20. Representative Rob Matzie (D-Beaver, Allegheny) will be presenting PNA with a House citation.

 

Sunshine Week Photos

For this year’s Sunshine Week, we asked our members to submit sunshine-themed photography to supplement our advertising campaign.  While we couldn’t use each image for the promotional campaign, all represented the professional images captured by journalists in Pennsylvania.  Each of the submissions has been posted to the video and gallery below:

Photographers

  • Bob Ford, Times News
  • Brett Crossley, NorthCentralPA.com
  • Curt Werner, Dillsburg Banner
  • Kathy Ruff
  • Matt Caylor, Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association
  • Mark Moran, Citizens’ Voice

View the Gallery

 

Sunshine Act Compliance Concerns