Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sunshine Week and a new FOI committee

Anyone in Connecticut can walk into a government office and ask to see a copy of a public document. But not everyone knows that. And not everyone knows what constitutes a public document, or what agency to approach to get it.

In honor of Sunshine Week this week, a national project by the American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, staff from the New Haven Register, The Middletown Press and The Register Citizen have formed an informal Freedom of Information Committee.

Sunshine Week is meant to get people talking about government transparency and inform the public about their right to obtain information. And with the help of this committee, we are hoping to do just that.

This blog is a first step to increase communication about open records and the Freedom of Information Act. Here we will post updates about what we are working on and solicit ideas for what we should dedicate our resources to.

Our goal is to be transparent about the entire process we go through when requesting documents, and we hope to share several of the situations we are going through or have gone through in the past when filing Freedom of Information requests.

To get better at keeping track of requests, following up on them and holding departments accountable for fulfilling them, our entire Connecticut cluster of newspapers will use a common Google spreadsheet listing all the requests we make and whether they have been fulfilled. This document will be available to the public right here on this blog, so anyone can see what we are asking for and whether we actually got it.

We will also be giving out “sunshines” to departments based on how quickly they fulfilled a request for information, whether the information was what we asked for and whether they were able to give it electronically. The scale will be from 1-5 sunshines with 5 being the best. The criteria will be posted right here on this blog, and we will hopefully be able to present it on a map as well.

Finally, the FOI committee will be in charge of setting up classes for the staff and the public on Freedom of Information and open records. We hope to have the first class set up for late April. If you are interested in participating as a speaker, guest or just have questions in general, please feel free to email us at

Committee members include Middletown Press Editor Viktoria Sundqvist (@vsundqvist), Register Citizen reporter Ricky Campbell (@RickyCampbellRC), New Haven Register Community Engagement Editor Angi Carter (@ReachAngi), New Haven Register reporter Alex Sanders (@ASanders88), New Haven Register sports reporter Chris Hunn (@Chris_Hunn), Investigations Editor Michelle Tuccitto Sullo (@NHRinvestigate), Topics Editor Mary O’Leary (@nhrmoleary), Asst. Managing Editor for Disruption Chris March (@LouderCMarch) and Graphics Mastermind Ann Dallas (@NHRdallas).

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