Indiana, PA - Indiana County

National Newspaper Week: Gazette strives to keep public informed

by The Indiana Gazette on October 11, 2013 10:50 AM

The Indiana Gazette abides by many standards in bringing the news of the Indiana County area to its readers. Fairness and completeness are high among those standards.

Our writers are committed to reporting the full story every time, seeking facts and opinions from those who would represent all sides of the story in order to present the pro and the con, the left and the right, what he said and what she said. That is a commitment to objectivity and fairness that provides our readers the balanced information they need to fully understand the issues and to form their own opinions.

But the one area where The Indiana Gazette clearly takes a position is in defense of and adherence to the First Amendment and other laws that keep our society and government open to the people.

It is by supporting the provisions of these laws that the Gazette becomes a strong, effective and vital part of our community. The Gazette actively encourages that these valuable laws be recognized and followed.

Since 1791, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution has protected freedom of speech and the free press in America. In addition to protecting free exercise of religion and granting the right to assemble, the First Amendment declares that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”

In Pennsylvania, the Right to Know Law has long provided access to public information, and in the same way, the Freedom of Information Act makes federal government information accessible to the public. For years, the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act has guaranteed the right of the public to attend the meetings of public bodies and required elected officials to cast their votes on public business in the open.

These are the key laws that enable Americans to hold their elected officials accountable for the way they represent the people, give citizens the right to see the workings of government and allow the press to report these activities to the public.

But the laws don’t mean that vital information and public business automatically is provided and published. These laws only work when citizens and the media put them to use.

The editors and reporters of The Indiana Gazette use the provisions of the Right to Know Law and Freedom of Information Act to pursue information and documents that show how government works, on all levels. This enables the Gazette to request and then report an open accounting of the resources entrusted to the people who operate our local, state and federal offices.

Gazette reporters take advantage of The Sunshine Act provisions that require officials to deliberate and enact public business in view of the citizens. Our staff of writers regularly attend open meetings of public agencies and report on the actions of elected leaders. Terms of the open meeting law also limit the kinds of discussion and action that elected officials may conduct in private. Gazette writers take a watchdog position to see that public policies and resources, when appropriate, are managed in public view.

These laws are valuable because they open the doors to public meetings and documents. But not all residents are able to attend public officials’ meetings or visit government offices to find the information they need.

Therefore, the Gazette believes it is a duty to monitor government business, as allowed by these laws, on behalf of all our readers and area residents. And under the rights and protection afforded by the First Amendment, the Gazette considers it a great responsibility to consistently, fairly, objectively and completely report the public business to the citizens.

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