South Dakotan’s Sunshine Week column was published in all 50 states

May 9, 2016

A community journalist from South Dakota produced open government editorials that reached hundreds of thousands of readers far beyond the borders of his native Rushmore State.

Brian Hunhoff, contributing editor for the Yankton County Observer, wrote a 2016 Sunshine Week editorial titled, “Ten Commandments for Open Meetings.” It has since been published coast to coast in all 50 states, in more than 170 newspapers.

His FOI message was also reprinted in a handful of foreign countries, including England, South Africa, Canada, and Indonesia.

This is not Hunhoff’s first Sunshine Week editorial. In 2015, he wrote “Go ahead, take closed government personally.” That piece was published in more than 100 newspapers from 40-plus states.

 “Ten Commandments” was among 15 columns posted on the 2016 national Sunshine Week website and offered free to newspapers throughout the country.

“A Sunshine Week representative told me it was one of the best usage rates they’ve had for an op-ed piece,” Hunhoff said. “To a small town, part-time journalist who writes for a 2,000-circulation weekly, that was kind of cool to hear,” Hunhoff said.

Hunhoff confirmed publication of his “Ten Commandments” column in those 170 newspapers by using Internet search engines as his primary tracking tool. He believes the actual number could be higher.

“A lot of weekly newspaper content is not available online, so there’s no way to get the exact number using Google and Bing,” he said. “I’ve received notes from rural editors saying they used the column, and half of those never showed up in a search engine.”

U.S. states where his “Ten Commandments” editorial was printed in five or more newspapers include South Dakota, Maine, Texas, Ohio, Indiana, Maryland, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota.

“It did better in places where state press associations promoted it on their websites,” he said.

Hunhoff estimated he has written “about 30” open government editorials over the last few years.

“I’m working on another Sunshine Week piece for 2017, and it’s coming together,” he said. “I’m hoping maybe I can top 200 papers next year. There’s no money in it (the widespread publication), of course, but it’s a nice feeling when I get a note from another editor telling me thanks for writing it.”

Hunhoff was a member of the Yankton County Commission for 10 years (1996-2006) and currently serves as Register of Deeds.

He has received numerous editorial awards during 38 years of newspaper writing. Among those honors are Golden Quill awards in 1995 and 2014 from the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors, and the 2015 Freedom of Information award from the National Newspaper Association.

To read Hunhoff’s editorial and others for Sunshine Week, go to www.sunshineweek.org. The site is coordinated by the American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

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