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The recipients of the 2021 "El Habanero" Medal of Advocacy at the 2021 PA Society event in New York City. Photos: Peter Fitzpatrick/AL DÍA News. 
The recipients of the 2021 "El Habanero" Medal of Advocacy (left to right: Ashley Edwards, Dann Cuellar, Alex Jakana, Chris Brennan) at the 2021 PA Society event in New York City. Photos: Peter Fitzpatrick/AL DÍA News. 

PA Society 2021 breaks the mold in strengthening the voices of diverse media leaders

The AL DÍA Foundation's PA Society event honored four individuals for their contributions to the journalism industry, and promoted the significance of building…

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On Friday, Dec. 3, the AL DÍA Foundation took the next step in creating the most significant and impactful annual PA Society event.

Held at Victor’s Cafe in New York City, the annual event served as a celebration of diverse journalism and media leaders.

Beyond that, it was also an event that promoted the future generation of media leaders and professionals. 

“We stand here as the sure leaders to developing educational opportunities and resources to develop media leaders and journalists,” said Taylor Cobb, Director of Business Development for the AL DÍA Foundation. 

The mission of the AL DÍA Foundation has always been to help grow a pipeline of diverse media voices.

When Hernán Guaracao, Founder and Chairman of the AL DÍA Foundation, began his career as a journalist, he couldn’t help but think about providing opportunities for others who wanted to follow in that path, as well.

As part of the 2021 PA Society event, four media leaders were honored with the 2021 "El Habanero" Medal of Advocacy for their contributions to strengthening the media landscape. 

They were Ashley Edwards, U.S. Partnerships Manager at the Google News Lab; Dann Cuellar, 6ABC Action News reporter; Alex Jakana, program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and Chris Brennan, political reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer. 

Prior to joining Google, Edwards worked in newsrooms and saw firsthand the lack of diversity that existed. She often saw the stories of people like her being told by people who didn’t look like her, or oftentimes not told at all.

While some progress has been made, as 13% of newsroom leadership are people of color, there is still a lot of work to be done.

“That’s why organizations like AL DÍA are so important,” said Edwards, as she accepted her award.

“We are making opportunities for ourselves, supporting each other and breaking the status quo,” she continued. 

Cuellar has been a staple at 6ABC’s Action News for more than 30 years. 

As he accepted his award, he expressed surprise at how fast those three decades have gone by. However, he displayed much gratitude to his family and children who have always remained supportive of him throughout his career.

Cuellar also announced the latest contribution he hopes to make to the region. 

“The next thing I want to do in life is cultivate the next group of journalists in Philadelphia,” he said, adding that he is looking to become a professor at either Villanova or St. Joe’s. 

Jakana’s career in journalism began in his native, Uganda. 

He applied to a radio station there, but his application got lost. Nonetheless, he took a chance and showed up at the interview anyway and later got the job. 

Throughout his career in the industry, Jakana said he has come to a major realization.

“Human life is a shared experience of shared dreams, shared hopes, and all of these are usually captured in stories,” he said. 

However, while those dreams and hopes may be shared, the stories are different due to perspectives, which is a needed element in the media industry. 

As a piece of advice, Jakana closed his acceptance speech by saying, “If you knock at the door and they tell you you do not qualify for this role, or this position, or you were not shortlisted, just show up.”

For Brennan, he has been coming to PA Society just about every year for about two decades, still remembering his first time as a rookie reporter at the old Philadelphia Daily News. 

“I’ve never been honored at a PA Society event, and I find that as surprising as I do gratifying,” he said. 

To close the event, three members of the AL DIA Inc. staff were surprised with a photo frame, and thanked for being individuals “who really make this shop go,” said Cobb.  

“We have to thank the leaders who work every day to put this shop together,” she added. 

Founded in 1899 and incorporated in 1903, the PA Society is an annual weekend retreat for Pennsylvania's politicians and business leaders, and takes place the first weekend of December.

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