Freedom of Information Act. Sunshine laws. Transparency. Open government. Accountability.
You have read and heard these words often. For some of you, perhaps, too often. We have heard from readers who think the newspaper is just exercising its journalistic muscle or putting its nose where it doesn’t belong.
Not sure we can change that view, but rest assured, anytime this newspaper has filed a Freedom of Information Act request under the guidelines of our state’s law, it’s been for you, the public.
You see, we think it’s our duty to be the government watchdog on your behalf. Sure, we want you to use the FOIA as well; after all, it was written with you in mind. But you get busy in your lives. You have kids to take to school and pick up in the afternoon. You have your jobs. You have after-school programs and sporting events.
In short, you have your lives to live, so you often turn to the media for the answers to questions that you have. Or answers to questions you did not have until we unearthed something as a result of our diligent news coverage or investigative work. That’s not said as a pat on the back; it’s said because -- well, again because you expect that of your local newspaper.
Why is the council spending money on this or that? Better yet, where is the council spending money?
Is the school board being forthright about personnel matters?
Did law enforcement do what it should in making an arrest? Was procedure followed when an inmate died in the county detention center?
The list of questions can be long. You elected people to do your business. You expect those whose employees are on the taxpayer payroll to do their jobs, and do them well and with integrity.
And you expect someone to make sure that’s exactly what is happening. That’s why you typically rely on the media and, specifically here in the Lakelands, this daily newspaper, to keep folks in check, ask the tough questions and dig for answers.
You see, we’re not trying to be nosy or flex our muscles. We’re simply trying to be the eyes and ears for you in an effort to maintain accountability in government.
We’re just trying to keep the sun shining brightly in the halls of government -- not just during Sunshine Week, but all year long. Every year.
Whiting is executive editor of the Index-Journal. Contact him at 864-943-2522; email firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at IJEDITOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.