Sunshine Law

In lecture this week we discussed the Missouri Sunshine Law and how journalists can use it to hold public governing bodies accountable. The Sunshine Law is a pretty powerful thing – it allows journalists to request documents from public officials or groups. From a public figure, we can request emails sent on their business email, records from their travel for their work and other documents that allow journalists to ensure those people are operating in the interest of the public. It can also help to make public governing bodies more transparent to the public in what they are doing.

Having never submitted a records request before, I didn’t know how those requests can sometimes be worked around. One of our editors presented this lecture and he gave several examples of times when the newspaper’s records requests had been met with some resistance. What particularly stood out to me was how long some of these people and institutions take to produce these records. In one case, he said the total time to get the records they had requested would end up being around 11 weeks. It seems as if there are some gaps in the Missouri Sunshine Law that allow the public governing bodies to do this and subsequently make the job of a journalist harder. I’ll be interested to see what sort of records requests I end up filing and how those transpire.

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