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Left to right) Ashley Edwards, Chris Brennan, Dann Cuellar, and Alex Jakana were the 2021 winners of the “El Habanero Medal of Advocacy.”    Peter Fitzpatrick/AL DÍA News
Left to right) Ashley Edwards, Chris Brennan, Dann Cuellar, and Alex Jakana were the 2021 winners of the “El Habanero Medal of Advocacy.”    Peter Fitzpatrick/AL DÍA News

Journalists Honoring Their Own | OP-ED

The memory of father Felix Varela allowed us to create an overdue recognition of the Fourth State at PA Society in NYC.

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This year, I decided to skip all the receptions of PA Society, except one, which to me, had all the meaning necessary to justify the annual trip to New York City.

Under the inspiration of Taylor Cobb, a director at the AL DIA Media Educational Foundation, our non-profit organization hosted a reception that honored the profession of journalism and particularly, those who have been practicing it for decades without any public acknowledgement from the rest of us.

In partnership with the Philadelphia chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), and the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists (PABJ), the AL DIA Foundation was able the accomplish a component missing from PA Society:

To acknowledge the fourth estate, el cuarto poder.

As much as we recognize the other three branches of power — whose representatives dominate the scene in the dozens of receptions taking place in New York City during the PA Society weekend — we thought the press, and the workers that make it possible, deserved the accolades too.

Journalism matters, we know, but so do our Journalists

Journalism matters, we know, but so do our Journalists.

They are invited to cover PA Society, mostly to write about the deeds and recognition of the powerful, wealthy and influential. But they rarely get to be recognized for the important and influential work they do the rest of the year.

Those journalists, to tell the truth, are not looking for those acknowledgements — trained as we have been to stay away in any way from the powerful, wealthy and influential that can imperil the necessary independence of our trade.

It was for that reason that it was such a joy for us to see journalists of the caliber of Chris Brennan, senior political news writer at the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Dann Cuellar, veteran reporter for the 6ABC News, to stand among the young members of the NAHJ and PABJ and accept the recognition we made of their significant contributions to journalism they have done over three decades of continuous work in our city.

The “El Habanero Medal of Advocacy”, nicely framed with a reproduction of the first edition of the publication first printed in Philadelphia, was presented to Chris and Dann, and also two stalwarts of the profession doing advocacy from institutions supporting journalism during our trying times: 

Ashley Edwards, the charming U.S. Manager for the Google News Lab, and Alex Jakana, a former BBC producer and journalist from Uganda, and now a Global Media Partnerships Officer at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Father Felix Varela, who was predecessor of all of us when he published in Philadelphia, and later in New York City, his now legendary “El Habanero” — his statement for freedom and independence for his beloved Cuba —  was probably smiling down from heaven as he saw the rich diversity assembled at a Cuban restaurant he would have enjoyed:

Victor’s Cafe on 236 West 52nd Street.

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