Elon University to house N.C. Open Government Coalition

A new partnership between Elon and the North Carolina Open Government Coalition will promote the state's Sunshine Laws and freedom of information for media and citizens about the way government operates. Details...

Elon University’s School of Communications will become the academic home of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition, effective Jan. 1.

The coalition unites organizations in the state that believe public access to government records, meetings and activities is vital to a healthy democracy.

Member organizations include The Associated Press, North Carolina League of Municipalities, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, North Carolina League of Women Voters, North Carolina Library Association, North Carolina Press Association, North Carolina Lieutenant Governor’s Office, John Locke Foundation, journalism schools at leading universities, major law firms, Time Warner Cable, and the state’s leading newspapers and broadcast stations.

Elon will become home of the Sunshine Center of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition. The State of North Carolina has open meetings and open records laws, commonly referred to as sunshine laws. 

The Sunshine Center’s primary role is to further the vision of the coalition by becoming the state’s leading resource on citizen access to the workings of government and First Amendment issues. Elon communications faculty also will establish a strong educational component, including the development of teaching tools and outreach programs.

“The mission and values of openness in a democracy are at the center of what we teach,” said Paul Parsons, dean of the School of Communications at Elon. For example, the school’s curriculum reflects openness and civic responsibility, with courses named Reporting for the Public Good and Broadcasting in the Public Interest.

In its new role, Elon and the coalition will host North Carolina’s celebration of open government with events on campus during Sunshine Week on March 15.

Coalition officers include Jim Hefner, vice president and general manager of WRAL-TV in Raleigh, president; Sue Price Wilson, state bureau chief of The Associated Press, president-elect; and Melanie Sill, executive editor of the News & Observer in Raleigh, immediate past president.

“We at the coalition are thrilled about the establishment of the Sunshine Center and our relationship with Elon University,” Hefner said. “Elon is making a name for itself nationally with its innovative approaches to higher education, and the willingness of the School of Communications to join us in this endeavor is just another indication of Elon’s commitment to its students and our state.”

Other coalition officers are Jordy Whichard, publisher of the Greenville Daily Reflector, treasurer; Beth Grace, executive director of the North Carolina Press Association, secretary; and Hugh Stevens, media attorney with Everett, Gaskins, Hancock & Stevens in Raleigh, co-secretary.

North Carolina is one of about 30 states with active organizations focusing on open government and freedom of information. Other centers affiliated with universities include Drake University (Iowa), the University of Alabama and the University of Missouri.

To learn more about the North Carolina Open Government Coalition, visit the organization’s website at www.ncopengov.org.