Hopkinsville forum focuses on open government

From New Era Staff Reports

Al Cross will be the keynote speaker for an open government forum March 13 in Hopkinsville.

The event titled “Open Government: Accessing Public Records and Meetings” is sponsored by the Kentucky New Era and the Hopkinsville-Christian County League of Women Voters.

Cross, the director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, is a journalism professor at the University of Kentucky. He is a former political reporter for The Courier-Journal and continues to write a column for the newspaper. He is a past national president of the Society of Professional Journalists and the recipient of numerous awards for his writing. He shared a Pulitzer Prize with the staff of The Courier-Journal in 1989 for coverage of the nation’s deadliest bus crash.

The forum will begin at 6 p.m. at Murray State University’s regional campus on Fort Campbell Boulevard in Hopkinsville.

The forum is for anyone in Western Kentucky who wants to learn more about the Kentucky Open Meetings and Open Records Laws. Speakers, in addition to Cross, will include Jennifer P. Brown, the New Era’s opinion editor, and Nick Tabor, a New Era staff writer.

People who attend the forum will learn how to file requests for information from local and state agencies and how to watch for possible violations of open meetings laws by local officials.

“It’s important for members of the public to know that they can use the open records law,” Brown said. “The laws were not written just for journalists and lawyers.”

Everyone who attends the meeting will receive copies of the Kentucky laws and tip sheets on how to use the laws when requesting public records or when asking local officials about open meetings. Tabor will use one of his successful requests for public records to show how he obtained information from a public agency and how that information was used for a story that ran in the Kentucky New Era.

The forum coincides with Sunshine Week, a national initiative to promote dialogue about the importance of open government. State laws on open meetings and public records are known as sunshine laws. The American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press help promote the national observance and encourage participation among the news media, libraries, civic groups, schools and others who are interested in the public’s right to know about government finances and actions.