Cox family honored for contributions to open government, local journalism

Former AJC reporter Jane O. Hansen cited for her career

The Cox family, owners of Cox Enterprises and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was honored Thursday night with the 2022 Charles L. Weltner Freedom of Information Award at a banquet hosted by The Georgia First Amendment Foundation.

The award is named for Charles L. Weltner, a former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia and a champion of freedom of information and ethics in state government. It is given annually to “a person or group whose work has significantly improved freedom of information in Georgia.”

The Cox family was chosen this year for its commitment to the public’s right to know, its advocacy work and continued support for investigative journalism. The family was also cited for helping establish legal precedent that protects journalists across the country from being sued for invasion of privacy when they use court records to accurately report information.

Cox Enterprises Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alex Taylor, who accepted the award on behalf of his family, urged attendees to make sure people know the importance of the First Amendment.

“Let’s all just remember the extraordinary right and freedom that we have,” Taylor said. “And with that extraordinary right and freedom, I think, also just comes a responsibility, and that is to be truthful, in addition to the right to say anything you want, be truthful and respectful.”

Taylor was introduced by AJC editor Kevin Riley, who said that the core guidance of the Cox culture is “do the right thing.” That belief, said Riley, is why the family has continued to stand up for the First Amendment throughout its long history in the media business.

The Cox family founded Cox Enterprises in 1898 when Gov. James M. Cox purchased the Dayton Evening News, which is now the Dayton Daily News. Cox Enterprises has remained a family owned company since its inception. The family also maintains a minority stake in the Cox Media Group, which operates several radio and television stations across the United States.

Jane O. Hansen, former AJC reporter, was also recognized as an Open Government Hero. Hansen was a journalist with the newspaper for 25 years, during which time her work was judged a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service. She later served 14 years as the public information officer for the Supreme Court of Georgia.

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, who won the Weltner Award in 2009, said Hansen had improved the Court’s reputation for transparency and “provided lifelines for our community by providing vital information for all who had the right to know.”

Hansen told the audience that she believes the First Amendment to the Constitution has never been more important. “Never has there been such a need for truth, accurate facts and the rule of law.”

This year’s awards ceremony marked the 20th year of the event and was the first in-person ceremony since 2019.