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Florida editors unite to protect Sunshine Law.

In a letter dated February 5, leaders of the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors wrote to colleagues that "ominous clouds" were threatening the state's Sunshine Law. FSNE president Patrick Yack and public-access committee co-chairs Tim Franklin and Neil Brown made an unprecedented proposal: That newspapers across the state dedicate March 10 as "Sunshine Sunday."

When the letter was written, the 2002 Legislature had just convened. At that time, the letter said, more than 100 bills had been filed "to weaken, or completely gut, the laws" that kept the taxpayer-supported work of Florida officials in the open and on public record.

By the time legislature recessed in late March, more than 150 bills had been filed and countless efforts made to close access to government by amending other bills.

More than 25 newspapers joined in "Sunshine Sunday," representing editorial pages of all political persuasions. Along with editorials, many newspapers published columns and op-ed pieces, including those by Jim Naughton of the Poynter Institute and Barbara Peterson of the First Amendment Foundation in Tallahassee reprinted here.

When the regular legislative session ended, Peterson reported that only 10 new exemptions to the Sunshine Law were created, "none of them awful."

The unity of editors was an impressive endorsement of the principles within the First Amendment. Excerpts from some of the columns and editorials and two of the op-ed columns follow.
COPYRIGHT 2002 National Conference of Editorial Writers
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:The Masthead
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2002
Words:227
Previous Article:Participatory democracy depends upon open records, open meetings.
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