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Sunshine Week (03/19/2014)
By Frances Edstrom
Sunshine Week

Russia’s land grab of Crimea from Ukraine sends shivers up the spines of those of us who remember the Cold War, when the Soviet Union, run by Communist Russia, sat on a huge part of the world. We wonder if Vladimir Putin is intent upon reassembling the Soviet Union, presenting a threat to freedom not only in those countries, but to the rest of the world as well.

According to a Reuters news agency story, a television news presenter named Dmitry Kiselyov said, in response to sanctions from the U.S., “Russia is the only country in the world that is realistically capable of turning the United States into radioactive ash.” To reinforce the message, the article pointed out, “behind him was a backdrop of a mushroom cloud following a nuclear blast.” Ironically, “Kiselyov was named by President Vladimir Putin in December as the head of a new state news agency whose task will be to portray Russia in the best possible light.” (Emphasis is mine.)

Leading up to the Crimean referendum, there were dueling propaganda blitzes from both Ukraine and Russia. Western news sources, and those worried about freedom of the press within Ukraine and Crimea, struggled to get the truth, and the small percentage of people with access to the Internet turned to social media for their news — not always reliable.

This is “Sunshine Week” in the U.S. It is a celebration and reminder that open government is good government, and that a free press sheds the light that maintains that openness. From the New York Times, LA Times, and Washington Post down to the Winona Post, it is the responsibility of the press to help citizens understand what is happening in our democracy by reporting on government actions.

Laws, enacted by government at the federal and state levels, bolster the press in the quest for freedom of information by ensuring that government meetings are open to the public, and that the public has access to the same data that government officials do, unless it is protected by privacy laws.

As you can imagine, some government employees, elected officials, and their agents resent what they see as the “intrusion” of the press — and by extension, the public.

Certainly it would be easier, they think, to simply do business without the press and public looking over their shoulders. They forget that they are determining the lives of those they govern, who elect and employ them, and who should have the final say. They forget that the thousands, even millions and billions, of dollars they spend is not their money, but the public’s money, taken from us in taxes.

We at the Winona Post have made many enemies by simply doing our job — making sure you are kept in the governmental loop. Our goal is to represent the facts of the issues, to present a balanced view of those issues, and to make sure you know how the issues will affect you and what you can do to exert some control over the issues.

Consequently, sometimes both competing sides accuse us of playing favorites, because we have not written an article strictly from one — their own — point of view. We are not in this business to earn the most friends on our Facebook page. We understand that digging into government is going to make us unpopular in some circles.

The thing that keeps us going is a quest for the truth (plus an inherent nosiness). It is that effort that leads us to stories such as the one in today’s issue on welfare fraud (see page 1a), and stories on Levee Park, the new Interstate bridge, annexation costs, frac sand mining, and pedestrian and bike accidents.

We find our reward in feedback from readers like you who tell us that the Winona Post is where you get the news you trust, come to us with tips and stories, enter the discussion by writing letters to the editor, and send us private notes of thanks.

Every week is Sunshine Week at the Winona Post, and you can rely on us to keep you “posted” with the latest from your communities and your governmental bodies all year ‘round. 


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