Collin College Career Change

Opinion: Shine the light – Public information protections help keep us informed

by | Mar 14, 2019 | Opinion

This is Sunshine Week, an annual media campaign that highlights the need — and right — to know what our elected officials are doing and how our tax dollars are being spent.

The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said it best: “Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants ….”

In other words, public officials and others are more likely behave when they know that people are watching.

Many officials or group leaders try to shed that light. In some more repressive countries they control media and even restrict public access to radio, television and internet outlets. They withhold information about their actions, and try to delegitimize news media by trying to convince people that they only offer “fake news.”

Our government is designed to utilize public participation, by voting officials in and out of office, attending meetings and hearings and petitioning our government for certain actions. So those meetings must be open to the public, and notice of those meetings must be published so that the people can attend if they wish. That’s why everyone, not just the news media, must have full access to public information.

Officials might consider such oversight a nuisance, thinking they could do their work more efficiently if people would just stay out of the way. But, as the many criminal cases against Rio Grande Valley officials over the years have shown, some elected officials abuse their access to the public purse strings to benefit themselves, friends and family.

And so it’s important to maintain vigilance, and news media have a two-pronged commitment to our public. We report the news, and also wage a constant campaign to defend public access to information, so that you can decide for yourselves what news is valid and which is fake.

Vigilance is especially important this year when the Texas Legislature is in session. Members of the Texas Press Association, including this newspaper, and other organizations are monitoring bills that affect public access to information. We will support those that support public access and oppose those that try to restrict it.

Government officials and offices can put up roadblocks ranging from outright denial to unreasonable fees for providing public information. Or they can make legal challenges that can make people question whether the information is worth the trouble.

The public’s right to know is worth it, and that is why media outlets across the country combine their efforts this week to highlight the public’s right to information about their government.

Of course, that right, and our efforts, continue year-round. But during this Sunshine Week, we shine the light a little brighter on the need to keep the public informed, and our government accountable.

By Carlos A. Rodriguez, the Opinion Editor for The Brownsville Herald.

For more opinion pieces like this subscribe in print or online.

0 Comments

Related News

What’s in store?

What’s in store?

Malls were the beginning of the end. Although, in the 1970s when Texarkana welcomed its mall, those of us who lived in the area were all too busy being excited about having a mall to see that by shopping there we were hurting our neighbors. “What could be better?” we...

read more
Just a bit peeved

Just a bit peeved

I used to pay little attention to the world’s little idiosyncrasies, but now they seem ever present. And it’s more than slightly annoying. I can’t be the only one. When I was getting change back from the fast-food drive-thru recently, it all became clear. The world is...

read more
The console stereo

The console stereo

Some days are just lucky ones. Such was the day I found a half-century old console stereo at an estate sale. It isn’t exactly like the one my parents had, but it’s sure close. Today, people stick in an earbud and listen to an endless supply of music on their phone via...

read more
Why we need a community forum

Why we need a community forum

I am not sure what I expected our country to look like in 2021, but I certainly did not expect it to be so fractured and so bogged down in hate. My oldest son was a year old on September 11, 2001. The wave of patriotism following that day gave me hope for the America...

read more
Rural America needs sound, predictable tax policy

Rural America needs sound, predictable tax policy

They say that nothing is certain in life ex­cept death and taxes. While those two certainties are undeniable, we need to make sure that family-owned busi­nesses, including farms and ranches, aren’t taxed to death. Texas boasts more than 248,000 farming and ranch­ing...

read more
Supporting local journalism supports this community

Supporting local journalism supports this community

The Local Journalism Sustainability Act (LJSA) was recently introduced in the House and has now been introduced in the Senate – and will benefit every member of this community! Unlike many issues in Wash­ington, this legislation has bi­partisan support and is focused...

read more
We’re global now

We’re global now

No matter how hard we try, we really can’t avoid one another. We live in a world where what takes place some­where else on the globe has a very good chance of affecting us, along with many others. The pandemic, of course, is a useful – if sobering – ex­ample. A virus...

read more
Texans’ right to know should be front and center

Texans’ right to know should be front and center

With state lawmak­ers immersed in the COVID-19 pandemic response and Texas’ electricity failures, the public’s access to information must be at the forefront of the Legis­lature’s actions. Information allows citizens to watch over their government, to speak out and to...

read more