ONA joins Sunshine in Government Initiative Coalition

Posted in Resources by Jennifer Mizgata

The Online News Association today announced it is joining the Sunshine in Government Initiative, a coalition of media groups committed to promoting policies to make the government accessible, accountable and open.

ONA sees its participation as a way to support freedom of information and keep its members up to date on critical issues of government transparency that impact their daily work, from access to information to publishing data and issues of privacy.

Benefits for ONA’s members include tools to help support their Freedom of Information requests; early warnings, in-depth analyses and reports on FOI-related legislation, and frequent summaries of issues relating to access to public information.

“ONA is delighted to add our voice to SGI’s already strong, united one representing the media’s perspective on freedom of information issues,” said ONA Board president Jim Brady, Editor-in-Chief, Digital First Media. “We look forward to strengthening our oversight and stand on issues critical to digital journalists all over the world.”

SGI strongly supports strengthening the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and urged Congress to pass the 2007 FOIA amendments, which created the Office of Government Information Services to mediate disputes between requesters and agencies. SGI has fought back against proposals to write FOIA exemptions into laws. With more than 250 such laws on the books, SGI monitors new legislation, analyzes any impact on transparency, raises awareness of the overuse of exemptions and works to narrow or defeat unnecessary new exemptions and limit their use.

So far this year, SGI has succeeded in helping Congress understand how the news media handles reporting based on unauthorized disclosures of classified information, allowed the public easy access to over 600 stories based on the federal Freedom of Information Act, and stood up to efforts to hide specific information from the public by putting it beyond its reach under FOIA.

SGI’s goals for 2012 include:

  • Educating Congress and the public on the delicate balance struck on reporting based on unauthorized disclosures of classified information (“leaks”). The national debate regarding leaks of classified or otherwise sensitive government information has escalated since the WikiLeaks disclosures over the last year and a half. SGI will urge Congress and the executive branch to be cautious in considering revisions to the Espionage Statutes.
  • Urging the government to make the FOIA ombudsman work better. The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), which Congress created as part of FOIA reforms in 2007, is essential to helping FOIA requesters and needs to be a stronger voice for an effective and efficient FOIA. OGIS should focus its limited resources on resolving substantive disputes between requesters and agencies and recommending improvements to FOIA.
  • Making FOIA faster. SGI will promote specific policy objectives and practices that will increase an open and transparent government.
  • Promoting a fix to overbroad or duplicative FOIA exemptions that put specific information beyond the public’s reach under FOIA.

“SGI will benefit from the unique perspective and energy that ONA brings to the fight to make government more transparent and we’re excited to be working together,” said Rick Blum, coordinator of the coalition.

Current SGI members include: The American Society of News Editors, The Associated Press, Association of Alternatives Newsmedia, National Newspaper Association, Newspaper Association of America, Radio Television Digital News Association, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Society of Professional Journalists.

About ONA
The Online News Association is the world’s largest association of digital journalists. ONA’s mission is to inspire innovation and excellence among journalists to better serve the public. The membership includes news writers, producers, designers, editors, bloggers, developers, photographers, educators, students and others who produce news for and support digital delivery systems. ONA also hosts the annual Online News Association conference and administers the Online Journalism Awards.