Friday, January 29, 2010

National Sunshine Week contest to honor 'Local Heroes' of open government

The American Society of News Editors is seeking nominees to identify the top three Local Heroes of 2010 who fought tirelessly last year to make their state or local public institutions more open and accessible.

FOI Oklahoma Inc. also is seeking nominations for its annual awards recognizing individuals and organizations that promote the free flow of information to the public.

Both sets of awards are part of the national Sunshine Week celebration March 14 - 19.

The deadline for nominations in the national contest is Feb. 26. ASNE encourages local media and civic organizations to nominate one of their own employees or members to compete for a Local Hero prize. Nominations may be submitted by completing a brief form on the Sunshine Week Web site and uploading supporting materials.

Some examples of the kinds of achievements that could qualify for Local Hero status include the following:

  • A citizen who launched a successful campaign to open local public meetings.

  • A blogger who filed a state or federal FOIA request or sued a public institution under FOIA laws and uncovered previously hidden information that had a major impact in their community.

  • An investigative reporter whose use of state or federal public-records laws revealed a threat that moved local officials to make changes that protected the safety of local citizens.

The first-place winner will receive an all-expenses paid trip in April to Washington, D.C., to be honored at the 2010 ASNE convention. The second- and third-place winners will receive $500 and $250, respectively. All the winners will be profiled on the Sunshine Week Web site, and their accomplishments will be publicized by Sunshine Week staff and participating groups.

Feb. 22 is the nomination deadline for FOI Oklahoma's awards. Nominations may be made via e-mail to or via mail to FOI Awards, PO Box 5315, Edmond, OK 73083-5315.

Nominations must include a letter of no more than 250 words justifying why the person or organization is deserving of the award.

The Ben Blackstock Award is presented to a non-governmental person or organization that has shown a commitment to freedom of information. The Sunshine Award goes to a public official or governmental body that has demonstrated a commitment to open meetings and open records.

The Black Hole Award recognizes those who attempted to thwart the public's right to know.

This year’s awards will be presented March 13 during FOI Oklahoma's third annual Sunshine Conference in Oklahoma City.

Sunshine Week, launched in 2005 by ASNE, is held annually to promote dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include hundreds of print, broadcast and online news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public's right to know.

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Journalism

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