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Open government: a recognition that is well deserved

The Lakeville Journal Editorial

“There’s always been a certain tension between government officials and journalists. The complex relationship between the two virtually dictates such a tension. But because each plays a vital role in the business of the other, there’s also a kind of symbiosis — a mutually beneficial coexistence.”

— Mitchell W. Pearlman, “Piercing the Veil of Secrecy”

 

These words written by Connecticut’s own Mitchell W. Pearlman in his above-referenced 2010 book on freedom of information describes well the benefits of having a free press overseeing government, while acknowledging the inevitable tension that results from the relationship. During the Trump administration, with the former president calling journalists “the enemy of the people,” the relationship was arguably more fraught than ever, even more so than it was during the Nixon administration. Now, a new Biden administration takes a different approach to dealing with the news media, one that comes from a place of mutual respect even if it is still based in a natural tension. Pearlman understands the necessity of this symbiosis in order to have a healthy democracy. Those who deny it, like Trump, can be seen as having other civic goals in mind, with no healthy, functioning, democratic government as any part of their vision.

Pearlman’s leadership in open government and open information in Connecticut, and the wider world, is rooted in this precept, and is one of the reasons for all citizens to appreciate him and the work he’s done over decades to  ensure that government remains accountable to the citizens it serves. 

The journalists at The Lakeville Journal certainly appreciate Pearlman. He has been a friend to this newspaper since the days when Robert Estabrook was the active owner and publisher in the 1970s. Estabrook worked alongside other journalists and state activists in 1975 to support a new Freedom of Information Law in the state of Connecticut. That law, adopted unanimously by the state Legislature during Gov. Ella Grasso’s term in office, also created the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission, of which Pearlman was the original and 30-year-long executive director. He can be credited with originating and maintaining strong freedom of information laws and practices in Connecticut, despite fluctuation in the strength of these laws over the years.

For more on the career of Mitchell Pearlman, see the article on page A2 of The Lakeville Journal this week. This information, and the above reasons, converge to justify the newest Freedom of Information Award in the state of Connecticut being named in honor of Pearlman. It’s a well-deserved acknowledgment of the vital work he’s done over the past decades, and continues to do, to keep the people’s right to know what their government is doing on their behalf front and center of the public consciousness. 

Whether recipients of this new award are in government, media or any other walk of life that inspires them to promote  and advocate for open information, they will benefit from knowing more about the man for whom their recognition is named.

Congratulations to Pearlman, on this award named for him and on all the years of unwavering support for open government. He has made better places  of Connecticut and all those locales across the country and the globe where he’s educated citizens on the importance of freedom of information.

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