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Project Sunshine
A Winning Strategy

Freedom of Information
Covering Prisons
Project Sunshine: Find FOI Help
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FOI Audit Tookit | PDF
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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

Jonathan Anderson
Public issues investigative reporter
Marshfield News-Herald
Marshfield, Wisc.
Phone: 920-676-5399
Bio (click to expand) picture Jonathan Anderson is a public issues investigative reporter for the Marshfield News-Herald in Marshfield, Wisconsin. Before joining the News-Herald, in 2015, Jonathan was a reporter for a pair of newspapers in northern Wisconsin for nearly two years. He has held internships at the First Amendment Center, Wisconsin Law Journal, Wisconsin Public Radio and WISN-TV, and was also editor in chief of his college newspaper, the UWM Post.

Jonathan is an avid requester of public records, and his work in the FOI arena has also entailed advocacy and research. He has been the plaintiff in two lawsuits challenging improper government secrecy. He helped obtain a legal opinion from the Wisconsin attorney general that found University of Wisconsin System student government groups subject to the state’s open meetings law. His master’s thesis, “Resolving Public Records Disputes in Wisconsin: The Role of the Attorney General's Office,” investigated how the Wisconsin attorney general reviews and sometimes intervenes in access disputes. And he has volunteered for the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council.

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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