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Project Sunshine
A Winning Strategy

Freedom of Information
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FOI Committee
This committee is the watchdog of press freedoms across the nation. It relies upon a network of volunteers in each state organized under Project Sunshine. These SPJ members are on the front lines for assaults to the First Amendment and when lawmakers attempt to restrict the public's access to documents and the government's business. The committee often is called upon to intervene in instances where the media is restricted.

Freedom of Information Committee Chair

David Cuillier
Director and Associate Professor
School of Journalism
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721
Work: 520-626-9694
Bio (click to expand) David Cuillier, Ph.D., is director of the University of Arizona School of Journalism, where he researches and teaches access to public records, and is co-author with Charles Davis of "The Art of Access: Strategies for Acquiring Public Records." He served as FOI chair 2007-11 before becoming a national officer and serving as SPJ president in 2013-14.

Before entering academia, he was a newspaper reporter and editor in the Pacific Northwest. He has testified before Congress on FOI issues twice and provides newsroom training in access on behalf of SPJ. His long-term goal is to see a unified coalition of journalism organizations fighting for press freedom and funded through an endowed FOI war chest.

Home > Freedom of Information > Project Sunshine > A Winning Strategy

Project Sunshine
A Winning Strategy

Your Right to Know
Find FOI in your state

Get in touch with the Sunshine chair or chairs in your state and find FOI Centers, quotable sources, resources and more by using the menu below.

Do you want your state to do a better job of enforcing open-meeting and open-records laws? Here are five important things to consider when trying to effect change, according to Frank Gibson, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government:

Identify problems with accessing public information.
Collect stories of personal experience or conduct a statewide survey of reporters and editors to identify violations of the law.

Take an inventory of your resources.
What have you got to work with? Assess human, financial and political resources — and don't leave out potential contributions from the general public. Acknowledge the limitations of each resource and group of contributors.

Form a coalition.
This requires listening as much as talking and respecting everyone's point of view. It's important to welcome everyone into this conversation and to represent everyone — journalists of all media, publishers, citizens and lobbyists.

Jointly craft an action plan and delegate wisely.
Divide the work needed to be done based on each partner's ability and resources, or agree on a list of priorities and an order of progression. Be realistic. Not everyone can lobby. Some groups and individuals have money, but little time, to give. Be highly inclusive, and remember that the geek who designed your coalition's Web site deserves as much credit as the person who got you and your team in to see the governor or the person who wrote a big check to fund your efforts.

Raise the profile of the problems you've identified.
Once you've spotted specific problems, make others aware of them too. Press for coverage on local radio and television programs. Write news stories, letters to the editor and opinion pieces. Distribute fliers in public places, such as libraries and community centers. Provide regular updates about problems — and your efforts to address them — on a Web site.

Frank Gibson is a retired Tennessean reporter, editor and former national president of the Society of Professional Journalists. He serves as the Tennessee Press Association’s Freedom of Information coordinator and executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. He welcomes questions and comments via e-mail or by phone at 615-202-2685.

Click here to contact the Project Sunshine Chair in your state.

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