Inquirer and Daily News columnist Helen Ubiñas has been named recipient of the Vernon Jarrett Medal for Journalistic Excellence for a series of columns on gun violence and its impact on Philadelphia teenagers in the aftermath of the deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Winners of the award, which is administered by Morgan State University's School of Global Journalism & Communication, must be nominated by someone directly affected by the reporting cited in the nomination.
Maureen Boland, a ninth-grade English teacher at the Parkway Center City Middle College High School, whose students were featured in Ubiñas' series, submitted the columnist's name for consideration.
"My students did not see themselves as particularly connected to the larger narratives about gun violence and student movements until they saw themselves in Helen's writing. Now they do," Boland wrote. "She helped them to see their own pain and their own power. I did not know that journalism had that kind of potential until I experienced it firsthand."
Since then, the Parkway students have become antiviolence activists, taking part in the National School Walkout, going to Washington thanks to a grant to participate in the March for Our Lives, and speaking at various forums about how guns have affected their neighborhoods and lives.
"As a journalist of color, I share the late Vernon Jarrett's mission to use journalism to explore, educate, and elevate the stories of people whose voices get overlooked and ignored," Ubiñas said in a statement. "This award will only inspire me to continue to use my platform to amplify their voices."
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DeWayne Wickham, the dean at the School of Global Journalism & Communications, said Ubiñas had "has produced exemplary reporting on a troubling aspect of black life, the impact of gun violence on black schoolchildren in Philadelphia, that demands our attention and merits this recognition."
"Few columnists in America can match Helen's tenacity, fearlessness, and compassion, particularly in her reporting about the many victims of violent crime," said Stan Wischnowski, executive editor and senior vice president of Philadelphia Media Network, parent company of the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com. "The Jarrett Medal is a testimony to her courageous reporting and her unflinching pursuit of truth and justice."
Ubiñas will receive the prize, which includes a $10,000 check, at a Sept. 20 ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington.
Mensah M. Dean, an Inquirer and Daily News reporter, received the award last year for a series of articles on Arthur Johnson, an African-American inmate who was kept in solitary confinement for 37 years,
The award is named for the late Vernon Jarrett, a pioneering African American columnist who wrote for the Chicago Defender, the Chicago Tribune, and the Chicago Sun-Times and who used his columns and long-running radio and television shows to educate Americans about the nation's legacy of slavery and segregation.