ATLANTA — Jim Zachary has been named president of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation.
Zachary, who is CNHI's deputy national editor and editor of The Valdosta Daily Times, was elevated by the GFAF board of directors Friday in Atlanta.
When he takes the reins Jan. 1, Zachary will be just the fourth president in the foundation's history.
He succeeds retired CNN executive Richard Griffiths, who took over from Shawn McIntosh, editorial director for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. GFAF founder and first president Hyde Post, established the foundation in 1994 and served as president for more than two decades.
"It's terrific to have someone like Jim who has a broad understanding of the needs of Georgia outside Atlanta be part of the organization and be in this leadership role," Griffiths said. "This is all about the battle for transparent government and Jim has been a champion for that for years."
Zachary's long journalism career has been centered around defense of the First Amendment and open government advocacy.
He is the holder of the David E. Hudson Open Government Award.
Zachary won the Associated Press Media Editors Award in 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015.
He accepted the Georgia Press Association's Freedom of Information Award in 2018, 2017, 2016, 2014 and 2013, for work with three different Georgia newspapers.
Zachary has received multiple community service and public service awards from APME and GPA as the result of his work focused on government transparency. Previously this year, he was feted as CNHI's Editorial Writer of the Year, and he has won multiple state and national recognitions for editorial writing, mostly focused on open government advocacy.
Before moving to Georgia, he was an eight-time winner of the prestigious Edward J. Meeman Award from the Tennessee Press Association and the University of Tennessee, largely being recognized for open government advocacy and editorial writing there as well.
"Serving the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, and even more importantly, the people of Georgia who want access to public records and local government meetings, is important work that matters, really matters," Zachary said. "Defending the First Amendment and advocating for government transparency are noble pursuits and crucial for our liberty."
The Georgia First Amendment Foundation was established in 1994 and is a nonprofit organization that works to educate the public, public officials, journalists and lawyers on Georgia’s open records, open meetings and free speech laws. GFAF is the only organization in Georgia with the specific mission to advocate for government transparency, free speech rights and access to public information, meetings and proceedings.
The GFAF Guide to Open Government and the Law Enforcement Officer’s Guide To Open Records in Georgia are the most authoritative resources of their kind in the state.
In recent years, the Georgia First Amendment Foundation has:
— Worked with First Amendment advocates and media organizations statewide to help usher through the Legislature a major expansion of free speech rights — the largest legislative gains in this area in 20 years.
— Conducted open records and open meetings workshops for citizens, public officials and journalists around the state.
— Successfully advocated for increased penalties for government entities that don’t allow access to public meetings, proceedings and records, as required by Georgia law.
— Formally objected to the arrests of journalists covering issues of public interest.
— Conducted workshops to train citizens, law-enforcement officers and journalists about access rights to video from drones and police body cameras, as well as protections for citizens recording police via personal mobile phones or cameras.
— Written letters of inquiry to help Georgia citizens and journalists gain access to government meetings, court proceedings and public records.
Kathy Brister was elected vice president, Ken Foskett secretary and McIntosh will serve as treasurer. Griffiths, McIntosh and Post each continue to serve as GFAF president emeritus.