As we enter the fall, I have to confess that much of the optimism I felt several months ago has diminished as COVID continues to disrupt our lives. Having said that, I am by nature an optimist and there are still many positive things to focus on. That is certainly the case with CFOG where, notwithstanding the pandemic, there are many exciting things to report.
First and foremost, I am beyond excited to announce that CFOG has created The Mitchell W. Pearlman Freedom of Information Award. Created to honor Mitch and his lifelong achievements promoting and preserving open government, this award will be given out annually beginning in the fall of next year to government officials, members of the press, and other residents of Connecticut who make significant efforts to foster transparency in government, disclose information vital to the public, and otherwise ensure that citizens can see their government at work. As I said when the CFOG Board unanimously voted to create the Pearlman Award: “No one has done more to ensure the people’s right to know in Connecticut and, perhaps, around the world than Mitch has. He has been a stalwart public official, often in the face of powerful forces that wanted to keep the public’s business secret. He has been a teacher, a mentor, and an inspiration to countless individuals. No one deserves to have a Freedom of Information Award named after him more than Mitch.”
CFOG also remains busy with its mission and commitment to educate the public on open government and First Amendment issues. CFOG sponsored several well-attended virtual symposiums on critical and timely issues. These programs were so successful that CFOG has begun a broader initiative to expand on these programs including an effort to educate the parents of high school students on the importance of the First Amendment. CFOG also presented its annual Stories Behind the Stories program that featured nine panelists from around the state describing their personal experiences with reporting and photo journalism during the pandemic. Finally, the annual High School Essay contest again generated numerous high-quality submissions from students across Connecticut. CFOG could not have done all of this work without the active support of numerous board members. I would like to thank all of them for their efforts and commitment to the mission of CFOG.
Please also stay tuned for a very exciting announcement concerning the CFOG Walter Cronkite Award. CFOG gives this award approximately every five years (sometimes longer when pandemics interrupt the world) to honor an extraordinary person committed to open government and the First Amendment. Past recipients have included Jim Lehrer, Louis Boccardi, Seymour Hersh, Bob Woodward and Floyd Abrams. We look forward to announcing our next honored recipient and the details of the event shortly.
During these unprecedented times, open government and the First Amendment become even more important. Constant vigilance is required to maintain and enhance these cornerstones to our democracy. I am proud of CFOG’s work and encourage everyone to lend their support to our mission.