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Utah's Right to Know
Donald Meyers
Donald W. Meyers writes about open-government issues for The Salt Lake Tribune. He is also the site manager of utahsright.com, the Tribune's online database of public records. He is also a member of the Society of Professional Journalists' National Freedom of Information Committee and sits on the board of directors of the Utah Foundation for Open Government.

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Utah SPJ looking for nominees for state Sunshine, ‘Black Hole’ awards

Know someone who had done exemplary work promoting the cause of open government? Or how about a government agency or official who’s gone well out of their way at keeping the public in the dark?

The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists want to know, and give them their just rewards.

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The chapter is seeking nominees for its annual Sunshine and Black Hole awards. The Sunshine Award recognizes those who have helped advance government transparency, either through legislation or grassroot efforts, such as fighting a law that would block access to public records, or to an activist whose fight helped promote greater openness in government.

For example, the 2011 Sunshine Award went to the coalition that led the opposition to HB477 and proposed an initiative to repeal the bill that would have eviscerated the Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA). It was that public outcry, along with aggressive coverage by the Utah news media, that forced the Utah State Legislature to repeal the bill.

The Utah Supreme Court also won a Sunshine Award for approving of a reporter’s shield rule, which allows journalists to protect sources of information from disclosure in court.

The Black Hole award is for someone who knows they are violating the spirit or letter of open-government laws, is doing it for personal or political motives, and their actions affect the public as a whole.

The best example was the members of the 2011 Legislature who railroaded HB477 through, despite public protests that the law would undermine government transparency in Utah. Other recipients include Provo officials for keeping documents pertaining to the sale of the iProvo network secret; Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber, for proposing legislation to make public employees’ salaries private information; and Logan Mayor Randy Watts, for a policy mandating that all communication between journalists and the city be done by email.

To nominate someone for one of the awards, contact Linda Petersen at the Valley Journals at linda@valleyjournals.com. Be sure to include documentation as to why you think the person deserves a Sunshine or Black Hole award.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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