Sunshine Week kicked off Sunday to celebrate access to public information and open government. The Sunshine Center of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition is dedicated to providing residents with information about public records and open meetings law. The director of the coalition, Jonathan Jones, spoke to senior writer Amanda Albright about sunshine in the state. The interview has been edited for brevity.
THE DAILY TAR HEEL: What’s the history of Sunshine Week in North Carolina?
JONATHAN JONES: Sunshine Week is a national celebration of open government that started ten years ago. The N.C. Open Government Coalition also started ten years ago. We’re not the only ones who celebrate Sunshine Week — it was originally started by the American Society of News Editors. Newspapers across the state have started celebrating since its inception. It’s grown beyond newspapers, to TV and online. The public and government agencies participate — we’ve had some local governments doing Sunshine Week activities to highlight their efforts to inform the public.
DTH: How has the approach to sunniness changed in the last 10 years?
JJ: It’s hard to say that there’s been one big shift one way or another — it really kind of ebbs and flows. For the last six years, the coalition has partnered with the Elon Poll to do some polling of public attitudes of open government and the public’s knowledge. One of the things we’ve seen is there’s a drop in knowledge about the right to know. Fewer people know they have that right to know than they did five years ago... But one thing we do find in our polling is the public overwhelmingly supports the idea that they should be able to have access to public information.