The Guam Daily Post

12 23Fri10092015


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Back Opinion On closing the doors

On closing the doors

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A DELEGATION of staff members of various national lawmakers met with some of our senators last Friday, in a briefing that stirred up a bit of a tempest over their request that the meeting be off the record and confidential.

We’re the first in line to advocate that the business of the government be kept open and available to the media as much as possible. The public has a right to know what its elected officials are doing, and we serve as an outlet for that public information. While we appreciate the news releases and meeting summaries put out by the members of the Legislature and the governor’s staff, nothing compares with actually having a reporter there to hear first-hand what is being discussed.

That being said, however, we’re not quite sure what purpose was served by Sen. Judi Guthertz walking out of that meeting. The request to keep the meeting closed to the media was upheld by the other senators there, who went ahead without Sen. Guthertz. We thank the good senator – who is also a regular columnist for this newspaper – for championing the cause of press freedom and access.

But this was quite different from the meeting last year with our senators and two prominent members of the U.S. Senate: Carl Levin and James Webb. Friday’s meeting was with a number of staff who are on a fact-finding trip. There were no members of Congress present. Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo is on-island, but sent a staff member. The staffers asked that the meeting be closed, and we don’t have a major problem with that.

The fact is it is not always possible to have an honest give-and-take with reporters present. Negotiations often must take place behind closed doors simply because if the media is always in the room, no real negotiating will transpire. We don’t need to be in the room when our senators brief a bunch of congressional staff employees.

Transparency means giving the public an honest accounting of what happened, not necessarily throwing open the doors to every single minute of discussion. There should be a taped or transcribed record, but fundamentally we all depend on the basic honesty and candor of those we elect to serve. If they are sincere and incorruptible public servants, they will tell us what went on, and we will believe them. If they are the type of people who prefer to keep things secret, we’ll find that out soon enough and toss them out of office at the next election.

We continue to advocate as much open government as possible. But boycotting last Friday’s meeting wasn’t necessary.

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