Indiana University is hosting a free workshop on open government and accessing public information this month. While speakers will include journalists from outlets such as the Washington Post, BuzzFeed News and Pro-Publica, the workshop is open to anyone interested in what their government is doing.
“The record laws weren’t written for journalists,” said Gerry Lanosga, an assistant professor at the IU Media School and co-organizer of the event. “They may be super-users, but the laws were really written for everybody.”
The event, called “Letting the Sunshine IN: An Open Data and Open Government Workshop,” is scheduled for March 17 in the ballroom of University Tower at IU-Purdue University Indianapolis. It will include information sessions about state and national public access laws, as well as a hands-on session in which experts will guide participants in submitting data requests to state agencies.
The event coincides with Sunshine Week 2018, a national initiative to educate the public about the importance of open government and the dangers of excessive secrecy. Since it was established in 2005, newspapers have recognized the initiative by running stories about public record laws, both how they work and their problems. Lanosga encouraged everyone to hold government accountable during Sunshine Week by asking for a public record or looking up public data.
“Open record laws get stronger with use,” he said. “They’re like muscles. If they fall into disuse, that threatens the right of access in a broader sense.”
The open data workshop is designed to help journalists and private citizens use public record laws. The first session begins at 9:15 a.m., with an overview of Indiana’s public access law, followed by a discussion.