Our state and local governments exist to serve our communities. We pay taxes every year, but in return, we taxpayers know what our government is doing, how we are spending our money, and whether we are getting the services we deserve. You have the right to know.
But there are fewer and fewer journalists on the frontlines keeping governments honest. If government officials are not regularly confronted with questions and requests for public records, they increasingly lean toward secrecy over transparency.
Worse, state and local governments have far more resources than the general public, so they are well aware that most requesters cannot afford to fight back (taxpayers’ money ) can be used to defend a request for information in court.
We all know what happens when governments let themselves be.and that’s why Spotlight PA And many of our newsroom partners are crafting creative solutions to shift the balance of power back in your favor, the taxpayer.
This week is Sunshine Week, an annual nationwide effort to draw attention to the importance of government transparency and access to public records. These are the two core principles of the mission of Spotlight PA, the statewide newsroom I lead.
Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan newsroom covering pressing issues for the Harrisburg State Capitol and statewide. We share all your journalism for free with over 90 news outlets across the state.
And we are working to unite our partners to fight for transparency.
Here are just a few of last year’s wins.
In July, Spotlight PA, along with Center Daily Times and WJAC-TV, successfully appealed to the Center County Court of Common Pleas. open records related to sexual extortion cases Something a Pennsylvania State University lawyer hid from the public.
In August, the state federal court ruled in favor of Spotlight PA The state health department sued us for trying to block access to de-identified data on the number of people using medical marijuana in each qualifying condition in Pennsylvania.
In October, Spotlight PA, along with The York Dispatch, LNP Media Group, and WITF Public Media, reached an agreement with the York County Clerk of Courts in an effort led by the York Daily Record. Demand better access to criminal court records After the press filed a lawsuit claiming numerous violations of the law.
In all three of these cases, and many more across the state last year, the Newsroom was represented by Paula Knudsen Burke, a Pennsylvania-based attorney, at no charge. Press Commission for Press FreedomThe 2020 Commission is a new local legal initiatives Providing a wide range of legal assistance to journalists.
“While public officials and institutions tend to favor confidentiality over transparency, it is always a concern, but it is especially true in courts, where journalists oppose the troubling erosion of access to basic information. I’ve been watching and supporting,” Burke said in an interview. .
Every day, Spotlight PA reporters across the state are fighting big and small to keep track of taxes and understand what the government is doing. How do you find the time and resources to do such important work?
It’s all thanks to you.
The future of our journalism and Spotlight PA depends on your support.Make tax-deductible gifts of any amount at spotlightpa.org/donateand as a bonus, All donations are doubled Thank you for the matching gift from Pittsburgh’s Venter Foundation, which is committed to ensuring an honest and ethical government.
We appreciate your support as Spotlight PA continues to work with our newsroom partners in the fight for government transparency. Consider a gift now. spotlightpa.org/donateIf you would like to donate by check, please send it to Spotlight PA, 228 Walnut St., #11728, Harrisburg, PA 17108-1728.
Christopher Baxter is executive director and editor-in-chief of Spotlight PA, a nonpartisan independent newsroom based in Harrisburg.send him an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.orgThe spotlight PA is foundation and readers like you A person committed to accountable journalism that delivers results.
https://www.spotlightpa.org/news/2023/03/pa-government-secrecy-transparency-sunshine-week-2023-spotlight-pa/ How Spotlight PA Combats Pennsylvania Government Secrecy Spotlight PA