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'Chronicle' stands firm in guarding free press

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The Augusta Chronicle has a long history of defending the Constitution -- particularly the First Amendment's freedom of the press.

Over the decades, the newspaper's positions have often landed it in federal court or before the Georgia Supreme Court, leading to precedent-setting decisions.  File/Staff
File/Staff
Over the decades, the newspaper's positions have often landed it in federal court or before the Georgia Supreme Court, leading to precedent-setting decisions.

These efforts are undertaken to ensure that the people of this community have access to the information they need to make informed decisions, be they political, personal or financial.

Last year, The Chronicle's clashes with a former Augusta city attorney culminated in her forced resignation and a policy change on records requests.

An ongoing effort to obtain federal inmate mug shots from the U.S. Department of Justice is part of a long legacy of standing up for free speech and government accountability.

Over the decades, the newspaper's positions have often landed it in federal court or before the Georgia Supreme Court, leading to precedent-setting decisions.

Among them:

- Richmond County Hospital Authority v. Southeastern Newspapers Corp., 252 Ga. 19 (1984).

The Chronicle requested records showing the compensation of highly paid executives at University Hospital. The hospital resisted and claimed a right of privacy. The Superior Court granted the newspaper's request, and the Hospital Authority appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court. The high court upheld the right of the newspaper to obtain the records.

Since then, compensation documents for highly paid public employees have been routinely disclosed both in Augusta and throughout the state.

- Newsome v. Southeastern Newspapers Corp., (Ga. Supreme Court 1990).

Clerk of Court Lester Newsome would not allow the newspaper to have access to divorce decree information, saying it violated the privacy of those litigants. The Chronicle won an order in Superior Court granting access, then won the appeal in the Georgia Supreme Court.

- Trapp v. Southeastern Newspapers Corp., (S. D. Ga. 1984). This was a libel case brought by an Aiken County Council member and her husband complaining of editorial coverage about the county's hiring of the husband. The federal court applied the protection of New York Times v. Sullivan and dismissed the case against The Chronicle .

- John Mills Hunter v. Southeastern Newspapers Corp. (1984) This was a defamation suit filed in federal court by a person who was at one time suspected of having committed assaults on females in the Augusta area.

He was subsequently exonerated when the true perpetrator was uncovered and arrested. Hunter sued The Chronicle for libel. After a jury trial in federal court, a verdict was returned in favor of the newspaper.

- Charles Walker v. The Augusta Chronicle . Charles Walker filed a libel suit against the newspaper based on a Clyde Wells cartoon published in 1981 that showed a caricature of Walker with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar. The lawsuit was dismissed on summary judgment by an order of Richmond County State Court.


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