As advocates for open government close the door on Sunshine Week 2008, the News-Record is turning up its watchdog effort.
“It is time now to get the public involved,” said Krista Duhon, managing editor of the News-Record. “The “Watchdog Report,” which we launched during the 2007 Sunshine Week effort, is now a year old. We are ready to take a another step.”
Duhon is seeking volunteers who have an interest in learning the rules that apply to local governing bodies and who are willing to spend a few hours a month attending public meetings.
“Accountability in government really begins with the individual,” Duhon said. “When the public understands the rules, compliance becomes a priority for those who conduct the business of the citizens.”
“The Watchdog Report” is an attempt by the News-Record to shine light on local governing bodies when actions violate the Open Meeting or Open Records acts.
The project has also been used to applaud elected officials when they make notable efforts to avoid a violation.
A pawprint icon, the words “What You Need to Know” and applicable Sunshine laws are embedded into news articles when the editor believes attention should be drawn to a specific matter.
“We use it with discretion. We are not trying to pick needless fights,” Duhon said. “It is not our objective to shred a public body to pieces. Our intention is to inform - which I believe is the key to building better and more transparent government.”
The News-Record's Sunshine Week efforts of 2007 were applauded at the state level by both the Oklahoma Press Association and Freedom of Information Inc. of Oklahoma.
“It has been a worthwhile endeavor,” Duhon said. “Now, it is time to fill up the dog house.”
Anyone interested in joining the watchdog effort can call Duhon at 918-542-5533 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.