MURRAY, Ky. — In observation of Sunshine Week, a national celebration of public access to information, Dr. Melony Shemberger, assistant professor of journalism and mass communications at Murray State University, will present a free session about sunshine laws Monday, March 12, at 6 p.m. in room 107 of Wilson Hall.
Sunshine Week is recognized March 11–17 and is organized by the American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Sunshine laws are a vital component of the free press and pertain to public information, open meetings and open records.
“Sunshine laws are news-gathering and reporting tools for journalists,” Shemberger said. “Unfortunately, journalists do not use these laws as much as they should. Citizens, too, are impacted greatly by these laws or a lack of them.”
During the presentation, Shemberger will discuss her experience working with open records and public information throughout the course of her career.
For years as a journalist and a scholar, Shemberger has advocated and studied the need for improved literacy on sunshine laws. In 2004, when she was a master’s degree candidate in Murray State’s journalism and mass communication department, Shemberger used her comprehensive project to examine the lack of education that public officials receive on sunshine laws — an investigation that led to a series of award-winning newspaper stories.
In 2011, during her dissertation in Tennessee State University’s Doctor of Education program and in subsequent journal articles, Shemberger studied the journalism curriculum in Tennessee’s colleges and universities in comparison to the state’s rapidly evolving changes in sunshine laws. She plans to do a similar examination of the journalism programs at Kentucky’s four-year postsecondary schools.
In one of her journalism courses, In-depth Reporting, Shemberger incorporates an intense unit on sunshine laws in advance of the local meeting coverage that students have to complete.