Saturday, November 17, 2007

Why is it important for government to be open

There is a certain type of hardheaded person who cannot understand logic when it is waved right in front of his face and a perfect example of that type of person can be found in the comments to a Joplin Globe editorial concerning the reluctance of Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors President Dwight Douglas to provide the media with the packet of information that is being discussed at the board meeting.

A commenter named "Leroy" issued a lengthy tirade against the Globe, which included this passage:

The information will be made public when the topic is discussed during the meeting and EVERYONE will hear the topic. I have an idea on what the real issue is. The Globe wants it for selfish reasons. (((By obtaining that packet we learned in ADVANCE about the creation of a new major program.))) There are dozens and dozens of board meetings going on across the area. The Globe does not have dozens and dozens of education reporters to cover them. So, they want to take the easy, lazy way, and SEE what is important and then decide which board meeting they should send a reporter to. It has nothing to do with open meetings, the packets will be open to the public when the gavel comes down. Stop bothering us with petty issues.

It appears Leroy is the docile type who prefers to believe that every decision made by a governmental body is made for the betterment of society as a whole. If the media wait until a subject has been discussed at a meeting, it may be too late to provide readers or viewers with the information they need to have to be fully informed.
When the media receives information in advance, they can use it for the following purposes:

-First and foremost, they will have a better understanding of what is being discussed and will be able to write or air a more knowledgeable story

-They can do research on a proposed policy to see if it has worked in other places.

-They can let the public know about an action for which citizens might want to have some input before a decision is made.

-They can check to see if there is some hidden motivation for a proposal, such as a councilman or board member owning a business that will benefit from a proposal.

Considering the shroud of secrecy MSSU's Board of Governors, under the direction of Dwight Douglas, has used through the removal of former President Julio Leon, and the formation of the search committee to find Leon's replacement, the Globe's continued pursuit of openness is correct and laudable.

And even when such secrecy issues have not existed, it is not just the media that benefit from having advance information, it is the public. Except perhaps for Leroy, who doesn't want to be bothered.

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