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Harrisville resident honored for work

Briggs-Bunting is first recipient for transparency in government award

Courtesy Photo Harrisville resident Jane Briggs-Bunting was recently honored for her work to increase transparency in government.

ALPENA — Harrisville resident Jane Briggs-Bunting was recently honored for her work to increase transparency in government and access to public meetings and records in the state.

Briggs-Bunting recently became the first recipient of the Jane Briggs-Bunting Transparency in Government Award presented by the Michigan Coalition for Open Government. She founded MiCOG in 2012 and stepped down from the board in December.

“The board totally shocked me when they called to tell me because I didn’t expect anything like that,” she said. “I don’t even think I deserve it — I mean, I just did something that needed to be done. Michigan didn’t have any sort of freedom of information coalition. At the time, we were one of only two states nationwide that had nothing.”

Briggs-Bunting said the coalition works with the legislature, has commented on proposed legislation regarding open meetings and freedom of information, and has worked with citizens and journalists, helping frame requests under the Freedom of Information Act or Open Meetings Act.

“What we’ve tried to do is become an advocate for transparency and accountability in government, which is extremely important,” she said.

Briggs-Bunting said part of the coalition’s efforts succeeded several years ago in getting some improvements to the FOIA, but the coalition is trying to expand the law further to include legislators, the governor, and the lieutenant governor in the law.

Briggs-Bunting is a media attorney and former journalist. She was the director of the Michigan State University School of Journalism for six years after directing Oakland University’s journalism program from 1978-2003.

Named after her, the award honors the work of citizens who fight for better public access to government.

“Jane Briggs-Bunting has been a tireless, enthusiastic voice for transparency in government for decades,” Michael Reitz, president of MiCOG and executive vice president for policy for Makinac Center said in a statement. “Her foresight in launching the Michigan Coalition for Open Government has allowed us to defend and expand public records laws here in Michigan.”

Lisa McGraw, vice president of MiCOG and public policy manager for the Michigan Press Association said Briggs-Bunting has provided a strong voice for transparency in government for years.

Briggs-Bunting was a reporter at the Detroit Free Press from 1970 to 1978 and also worked as a correspondent for Life magazine and People magazine. She founded the Great Lakes Student Law Press Clinic in 2004 and served eight years as a board member for The State News, Michigan State University’s independent student newspaper.

In 2003, she was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame. She served as a board member and past chair for the organization from 2006-2009. In 1991, she was honored by the Metro Detroit Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists as its first Journalist of the year and gave her a lifetime achievement award in 2014.

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.

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