Editorial: Let the light shine

Posted 3/14/24

Government works best in the light. When its actions are open, seen and transparent, they can be measured. They can be scrutinized. They can be questioned. They can be challenged.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Register to post events

If you'd like to post an event to our calendar, you can create a free account by clicking here.

Note that free accounts do not have access to our subscriber-only content.

Day pass subscribers

Are you a day pass subscriber who needs to log in? Click here to continue.

Editorial: Let the light shine


Government works best in the light. When its actions are open, seen and transparent, they can be measured. They can be scrutinized. They can be questioned. They can be challenged.

These principles apply at every level of government. When the local zoning board considers granting a variance to town building codes, when the city council decides how many millions of dollars to extract in property taxes, when police officers remove people from their homes and place them behind bars, government is at work.

When inspectors file reports about the condition of highway bridges, when state agencies launch a new mass transit system, or when lifeguards collect parking fees at public beaches, government is at work.

Government is busy doing things every day — deciding which roads get paved, who does the paving, and how much they get paid; selecting the next department head with a $200,000 salary and a lifelong pension.

All these actions demand scrutiny, or at least transparency. Laws create that transparency, and journalists (along with citizen watchdogs) provide that scrutiny. Their greatest tools are the principles codified in both federal and state laws that ensure the public can always access their government and its records. Here in Rhode Island, the two most important statutes for government transparency are the Open Meetings Act (ensuring public agencies, boards and commissions meet and make decisions in a visible way) and the Access to Public Records Act (making every government document open to the public, unless some privacy restriction prevents it).

Now comes a time to recognize and celebrate those laws, and the shrinking field of journalists who wield them for good. Welcome to Sunshine Week 2024, a national initiative to celebrate open government protections and the fundamental role of journalists in this nation – a role so significant it is written into the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.

Here in Rhode Island, Sunshine Week is being recognized in newsrooms and journalism classes throughout the state, culminating in a program this Saturday, March 16, at the William Hall Library in Cranston. A panel discussion on “How Public Records Shed Light on State and Local Government in Rhode Island” features several notable speakers with years of experience in the field. It begins at 10:30 a.m. and is open to the public — visible and transparent, as it should be.

2024 by East Bay Media Group

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.