It is an honor to be writing this to you as the new president of the Connecticut Foundation for Open Government. CFOG is dedicated to promoting open and transparent government in Connecticut. This principle is an essential value in our democracy, but still requires constant vigilance. Watchdogs such as CFOG are indispensable in this fight.
CFOG’s mission could not be more important. We work to keep citizens informed on matters related to open government, educate students on critical First Amendment issues, and raise awareness of best practices when the public’s right-to-know is violated. In simple terms, we work to preserve open government, transparency and accountability from our public officials.
Certainly, a dedicated free press is also essential to these principles, and our programs recognize and support journalists in Connecticut who keep the public informed every day. Every year we produce a program called The Stories Behind the Biggest Stories of the Past Year. As you can read elsewhere in this newsletter, this year is no exception, and on Jan. 27, CFOG showcased some of Connecticut’s best journalists and their work.
Later this year, we will be holding a dinner to recognize the recipient of the Walter Cronkite Freedom of Information Award. Given only every 3 to 4 years, this prestigious award recognizes exemplary work related to open government and freedom of information. Past recipients included Walter Cronkite, Jim Lehrer and Bob Woodward. I certainly hope to see you at this event.
Unfortunately, fake news and bias in the press are constant themes today, especially at a national level. These themes undermine the work of journalists and therefore threaten some of the foundations of open government. Recently, a study by Hans Hassell of Florida State University, John Holbein of the University of Virginia and Matthew Miles of Brigham Young University concluded what many of us intuitively already knew: that most journalists are working hard every day, doing their jobs and reporting the news objectively and without bias. Certainly fake news is a real problem in this age of social media, as is distinguishing news from commentary, but journalists at mainstream news sources who are reporting the news are not the source of that problem; rather they are part of the solution.
Open government is a value to be treasured and nurtured in a democratic and free society. I am proud to be part of that effort along with the entire board of the Connecticut Foundation for Open Government.