This week we celebrate Sunshine Week, which was created as a national initiative by the American Society of News Editors to call attention to the importance of open government, operating under the premise that government functions best when it operates in the open.
Sunshine Week is celebrated every year in mid-March, scheduled to coincide with James Madison's birthday on March 16th, which is also National Freedom of Information Day. Madison is popularly known as the Father of the United States Constitution, however he was also an important early advocate for the importance of open government. In August 1822, Madison wrote in a letter that “[a] popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps, both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
Sunshine Week was initially created as a single day – Sunshine Sunday – in the State of Florida in response to efforts by some Florida legislators to write exemptions into the state's public records law for themselves. In 2002, the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors launched Sunshine Sunday in response, which evolved three years later into the first nationwide Sunshine Week.
The American Society of News Editors and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press host a website – sunshineweek.org – that includes a toolkit of free resources, a vault with resources from prior years and a FOI in Action page that includes FOIA resources.