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Beacon to honor citizens, watchdogs with Sunshine Week First Amendment award

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By Caroline Curran, Reporter

For journalists, our March Madness has nothing to do with college basketball and everything to do with freedom of information. Well, except for sports writers. Obviously.

For us journalists a little more on the nerdy side, our March Madness is Sunshine Week—a week in March where we dedicate pretty much everything we do to freedom of information and the public’s right to know.

Instead of bracketology, think FOIA-tology. Too cheesy? Sometimes I just can’t help myself.

Of course our goal is to always shine the light on government, but Sunshine Week is an excuse to really play it up. And play it up we do.

This will be my fifth Sunshine Week since I’ve been at the Beacon. I hope you’ve learned something during these March issues dedicated to freedom of information and the public’s right to know. That’s been the goal.

We strive to give you everything—and I really mean everything—you could possibly need to be an informed citizen who knows what, where and when you have access to public information. Our goal of Sunshine Week is to make you, the public, fluent in the language of freedom of information.

We’ve showed you how to make a public records request, how an open meeting is, er, should be run. We’ve shined the light on many elements in government—from who makes what to who owes who, to who’s late on their taxes—you name it, we showed you where to find it.

This year’s Sunshine Week is being celebrated March 12-18. In that issue of the Beacon, you’ll find information on all things related to open government. We’ll cover the North Carolina Open Meetings Law (and its nine legal exemptions) as well as the North Carolina Public Records Law. We’ll cover FOIA—the Freedom of Information Act—and where you can find contact information to make a request. We’ll cover what you’re entitled to at every level of government and much, much more.

If there’s something you’d like to see explained in detail, email me. If you have an open meetings question that’s been bugging you, ask me. How about a pressing public records question? Just ask.

Email me at ccurran@brunswickbeacon.com by Friday, Feb. 24, and I’ll see if I can answer your questions in our Sunshine Week issue.

On a personal note, I’ve poured my heart into every one of these projects, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have been honored on a state and national level for it. Now it’s your turn.

In keeping with our commitment to freedom of information, we want to recognize a community member who has stood up for freedom of information. We want to recognize those in the community who fight for the First Amendment—who strive to promote an open and transparent government. We want to honor those citizens who are brave enough to stand up for the public’s right to know.

We know they’re out there. We’re looking for nominations.

Do you know someone who fights to protect the First Amendment? Do you know someone who should be honored for his or her commitment to promoting open government?

Speak up.

Like the freedom of information questions, please email me your nominations for our first-ever First Amendment award by 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24. You can email it to ccurran@brunswickbeacon.com. We love Facebook and Twitter, but comments made on Facebook or Tweets will not count as official nominations.

There are a few rules. First the nominee must reside in Brunswick County. Second, the nominee cannot be an elected official or someone running for elected office.

Other than that, the sky is the limit, whether they’re 8 or 80.

Email works best, but if you want to send it snail mail, please make sure it’s post-marked by Feb. 24. You can mail it to P.O. Box 2558, Shallotte, NC 28459.