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Observe National Freedom of Information Day

By Staff | Mar 16, 2011

Today is National Freedom of Information Day in honor of James Madison’s birthday.

In 1993, Paul McMasters convened a “National Freedom of Information Summit” at the First Amendment Center in Nashville, bringing together most of the major players on FOI, right to know and government secrecy. That two-day conference resulted in a report titled “Battling for an Open Government.”

In 1996, working with the American Society of Newspaper Editors, McMasters convened another summit at the Freedom Forum on FOIA’s 30th anniversary called “Sunshine & Secrecy: The FOIA Turns 30.”

The first official National FOI Day conference was held at the Freedom Forum on March 16, 1999, and has continued ever since.

Perhaps Janet Otto, former editorial page editor of the highly regarded Rocky Mountain News, said it best when she called the press “the natural adversary of the government.”

Otto’s statement bears weight on a number of counts. And it bears testament to the idea of the media as the “Fourth Estate” with the other three being the executive, legislative and judicial branches.

We need a viable press to keep our governments – local, state and national – from making “backroom deals”. It’s the press that keeps public officials honest, makes them accountable to the public and in many cases stands toe-to-toe with public officials.

This is not to say, though, that the press is always in diametric opposition to government. In fact, the press and media may work alongside government – providing public information in time of disaster, helping apprehend criminals, presenting essential information in a sensitive manner or embedding with troops to show their story as they fight to free people on the other side of the globe.

As technology presents new challenges to the press, rest assured that the press will embrace those changes to reach all Americans.

That’s why we’re here.