Elon Professor Introduces Sunshine Center, Outlines State Law for Communications Professionals

A new organization called NC3C held its first conference in Greenville, N.C., March 6, at which Dale Harrison of the Sunshine Center spoke about “The State of Sunshine in North Carolina.” The association comprises city and county communicators – the three Cs – and was founded one year ago as a group “dedicated to the professional development and networking of local governmental communications professionals.”

Harrison introduced the Sunshine Center and its mission to the organization’s membership and stressed the importance of the center as a statewide resource for public employees and officials, citizens, students, and media professionals. He also discussed recent substantive changes to the N.C. Public Records Law and shared the results of two studies examining access to government in the state.

Among the key changes to state law in recent years that Harrison emphasized was a 2005 provision that now requires judges to award attorneys fees to parties who win a public records lawsuit.

The studies Harrison discussed included a 2007 Elon Poll, which compared citizen attitudes about access issues in five Southern states. The Elon Poll revealed that North Carolinians lagged behind the average Southern citizen in awareness of open government laws by more than 10 percent. The study examined attitudes in Florida and neighboring Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia.

Harrison discussed a second study by the Better Government Association and National Freedom of Information Coalition, also conducted last year. The state-by-state analysis issued grades based on the responsiveness of each state to public records requests. North Carolina was among 38 states to receive a failing grade.

The NC3C conference was held in Greenville’s new city hall and included sessions on creating a crisis communications plan, techniques in new media, and using focus groups effectively. The keynote speaker for the gathering was Tallahassee, Fla., Director of Communications Michelle Bono.



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