View “Is our Government too Open?” A debate on government transparency

Reformers have tried to improve public access to information about decision making in government for decades. But some influential commentators now argue that the drive for transparency has gone too far, undermining the capacity of elected officials to reach agreement on policies and to make those policies work. March 13-19 is Sunshine Week - a nationwide celebration of access to public information. It is a good time to ask: Is our government actually too open? 

Join the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute and the Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs for a debate on transparency in the federal government between Professor Bruce Cain and Professor Charles Lewis, moderated by Barbara Petersen. The debate will begin at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 15 in Fred W. Smith Forum (Room 200) at RJI. Refreshments will be available starting at 6:30 p.m. A book signing will follow the debate. Both speakers' books will be available for purchase.

The scholarly journal "Governance" has published commentaries by Bruce Cain and Charles Lewis to accompany this debate. Read Bruce Cain's commentary: Yes, American Government is too Open.  Read Charles Lewis' commentary: No, American Government is not too Open.


Bruce Cain

The distinguished political scientist Bruce Cain is the Spence and Cleone Eccles family director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West and Charles Louis Ducommun professor in humanities and sciences at Stanford University. Cain succeeded the Center's founding faculty co-director, David Kennedy, and is tasked with carrying on the Center's study of the past, present and future of the American West.

Cain brings a wealth of experience in U.S. and California politics. A pioneer in computer-assisted redistricting, he is a well-known expert on elections, term limits, polling and the relationships between lobbyists and elected officials. He is a frequently cited source in media coverage of politics. 

His most recent book is "Democracy More or Less: America's Political Reform Quandary" (2014).


Charles Lewis

Charles Lewis is a professor of journalism at the American University School of Communication in Washington, D.C., and the founding executive editor of the Investigative Reporting Workshop. He previously has been a Ferris professor at Princeton University, a Shorenstein fellow at Harvard University and a visiting fellow at the University of Oxford Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. 

A former ABC News and CBS News "60 Minutes" producer, he founded the award-winning, nonprofit Center for Public Integrity (1989) and its International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (1997), the first global network of premier investigative reporters to develop and publish online multimedia exposés across borders. Under his leadership, the nonpartisan Center published roughly 300 investigative reports, including 14 books, from 1989 through 2004. Its unprecedented, highly collaborative, cross border major reporting projects were honored more than 30 times by national journalism organizations. 

He is the author of "935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity" (2014), and co-author of five Center books: "The Buying of the President" (1996), "The Buying of the Congress" (1998), "The Buying of the President 2000", "The Cheating of America" (2001), and "The Buying of the President 2004", a New York Times bestseller.

He was awarded a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 1998, and in 2004, he was given the PEN USA First Amendment award “for expanding the reach of investigative journalism, for his courage in going after a story regardless of whose toes he steps on, and for boldly exercising his freedom of speech and freedom of the press.” In 2009, the Encyclopedia of Journalism called him “one of the 30 most notable investigative reporters in the U.S. since World War I.” In 2014, the Wall Street Journal observed, “With the founding of the Center for Public Integrity in the 1980s, Charles Lewis probably did more than anyone else to launch institutional nonprofit journalism in America.”  


Barbara Petersen

A graduate of the University of Missouri and the Florida State University College of Law, Barbara Petersen is president of Florida's 
First Amendment Foundation. Before taking her current position in 1995, Petersen was staff attorney for the Joint Committee on Information Technology Resources of the Florida Legislature, where she worked 
exclusively on public records legislation and issues. A passionate advocate of the public’s right to oversee its government, Petersen is the author of numerous reports and articles on open government issues. She is the past president and a director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition board, and serves on the boards of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and Citizens for Sunshine, and is an ex officio member of the board for the Florida Society of News Editors. Petersen served as chair of Florida’s Commission on Open Government Reform, and was appointed by Senate President Don Gaetz to the User Experience Task Force formed for the purpose of making recommendations regarding government transparency. She has provided open government training to hundreds of government officials, public employees, citizen action organizations and reporters across Florida.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

6:30 p.m.  Refreshments and books available outside RJI Room 200, Fred W. Smith Forum

7 p.m.       Debate begins in RJI Room 200, Fred W. Smith Forum

8:30 p.m.  Debate concludes. A book signing will follow the debate. Books are available for purchase.


Parking is available at the Hitt St. Garage for free after 5 p.m. Street parking is also available on 9th St. in front of RJI, or anywhere downtown. Meters run until 7 p.m.



This map includes pins showing a walking path between RJI and the Hitt St. Garage.

Address: Reynolds Journalism Institute, 401 S. 9th St., Columbia, Mo., 65211


There is no cost to to attend this event.

How to register

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