Winning Essays Debate Pros, Cons of Press Conferences November Contest Asks For Transparency Suggestions

A winner has been named for each of the two positions in October’s Sunshine Week Citizen Journalism Award on the Web site. The first of these essays framed as a “yes” or “no” debate, the competition asked: Should government candidates be required to hold press conferences and answer questions from the media and the public?

The “yes” essay was penned by Erin Knight of Ontario, Canada, who called press conferences “essential” to helping voters determine which candidate will “best serve the needs and protect the rights” of the people.

“For voters to make an informed and unbiased decision, press conferences need to be implemented as part of a political campaign,” Knight wrote. “Those candidates who are up to the government task at hand and have a solid platform will stand firm, while those whose platforms are flawed and cracked will be weeded out as undesirable.”

Making the winning “no” argument was Justin Almeida, a Peace Corps volunteer serving in Romania and writing under the byline Paxus. Almeida called forced Q & A sessions “utterly redundant” and “no different from our televised debates or paid-for TV spots.”

“Internet and mass media have made it easier and more efficient to research, collaborate with, and debate about our elected officials,” he wrote. “Who know who they are, where they come from, what their favorite food is, how much they spend on clothing, who they hung out with in junior high school, what religion they subscribe to, their racial background, how many houses they own, and much more. Because of this, mandatory press conferences are just not needed. They have been rendered obsolete.”

Read all 35 essays on both sides of the debate on the Web site. As of this posting, 205 members voted on the debate, with 79 percent choosing “yes” and 21 percent opting for “no.”

The November essay contest, which closes Dec. 17, asks: What do you think the Obama administration’s priorities for transparent government should be? Read more on the Sunshine Week site about what experts are suggesting to improve government openness. Sunshine Week’s essay contests are open to amateur and professional writers alike.

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