Then-Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, left, with press secretary Jenna Garland in 2015. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

AJC wins two First Amendment journalism awards after battling office of Kasim Reed over release of public information

Originally posted Tuesday, April 2, 2019 by RODNEY HO/ on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution won two national First Amendment awards this week for its coverage of Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed’s administration and its efforts to stonewall the release of public information.

The American Society of News Editors and Associated Press Media Editors on Tuesday gave the AJC, the First Amendment Award, which recognizes “the best example of protecting or advancing freedom of information principles and/or overcoming significant resistance to the application of the First Amendment.
As the judges noted, the AJC last year chronicled over a span of months “a pattern of brazen violations of open-government laws by the administration of Kasim Reed.

They described Reed as a “one-time rising star in Democratic politics who had promised the most transparent administration in city history. The reporting lifted the veil on an entirely different reality in which the mayor’s aides repeatedly and deliberately thumbed their noses at the public’s’ right to know what went on in city government.” 

The year-long investigation, done in collaboration with Channel 2 Action News, led to the first-ever criminal investigation of open-records violations in Georgia. The current mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms adopted more robust compliance policies for public records requests and creation of a “chief transparency officer.” In February, the state Attorney General’s office brought misdemeanor charges against a former Reed former press secretary, Jenna Garland

The AJC also on Monday received the 2019 Brechner Freedom of Information Award presented annually by the Joseph L. Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida.

“It’s rare for a news organization to pour so much concentrated effort into making sure public-records laws are rigorously enforced,” said UF media-law professor Frank D. LoMonte, director of the Brechner Center, in a press release. “The judges were impressed not just with the quality and depth of the AJC’s reporting, but with how much positive change it brought about.

On April 16, the AJC and Channel 2 will be honored with the Atlanta Press Club’s Impact Award for “exposing violations of Georgia’s Open Records laws leading to Atlanta adopting a new transparency ordinance.”

The AJC reporters involved were Stephen Deere, Dan Klepal, J. Scott Trubey and Kelly Yamanouchi. Channel 2 journalists included reporters Richard Belcher and Aaron Diamant and producer Terah Boyd.

The AJC and Channel 2 are both part of Cox Media Group. And I am a board member of the Atlanta Press Club. 

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.