During lunch today I attended the "2008 Freedom of Information Day" at the Minneapolis Central Library here in Minnesota. This event was organized by the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information which is chaired by the ever-personable Helen Burke, a librarian at this same library.
The event's keynote speaker was Jane Kirtley, Director of the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law, whose presentation was entitled: "The Light at the End of the Tunnel - The Outlook for Freedom of Information." To paraphrase Ms. Kirtley we should be encouraged by the improvements we are seeing in terms of access to government records. Sadly, I had to spend my time driving to the top of a parking garage so I was a few minutes late to hear some of her speech so I missed some of the points she made.
The event concluded with short "reflections" offered by two of the 2008 John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award winners -- which totaled eight (8) journalists from the Associated Press and Star Tribune (www.startribune.com) . The primary message I heard from these informal speakers was that our state Department of Transportation essentially buried its head in the sand when the Interstate 35 bridge collapsed. As a communications consultant let me state the obvious -- "if a tree (bridge) falls in the woods while everyone is there for a picnic, YES the falling of the tree was heard!!! " -- in a crisis those in charge have to get out in front of the story NOT become the media story.
Overall, I enjoyed the event and talking with a few people I knew at the reception. Today's awards event was a nice kickoff for "Sunshine Week" which begins on March 16 to highlight the constant need for vigilance when it comes to knowing what the government has done or plans to do to us (not FOR us -- don't ever believe that old line).
The "First Amendment" was designated as "first" for a good reason,