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Speech given by Luis Enrique Rodríguez, winner of the Clemente Manuel Zabala Award

Luis Enrique Rodríguez, ganador Reconocimiento Clemente Manuel Zabala.

Receiving the Clemente Manuel Zabala Award is one of the greatest joys of my life. But ladies and gentlemen, for me and my beloved family, it is much more than a simple act or expression of happiness—of contentura, as Gabo’s ancestors would say, in the torrid lands of Colonel Aureliano Buendía, José Arcadio, and that incomparable matron, Ursula Iguarán.

To accept this award is an enormous responsibility, which I take on with immense gratitude and with the commitment to continue in this task with the same determination, rectitude, serenity, decency, humility, depth, and respect for the trade—and for our company, for our colleagues, for our family, for our country.

There is immense joy, after 36 years of work as a journalist, including more than 30 years as information editor on radio, in seeing the work of people like me acknowledged. Paradoxically, we work in silence—but with passion—and contribute to shaping society, to building the nation, this nation.

Yes, this is silent work in which I have learned the most important lesson: to ensure that the quality, the robustness, the value, and the importance of our journalistic output—which reaches millions of people through other voices and at times through our own as well—sounds good, and is well understood.

Our work, which is to edit journalistic information in language of radio, strives to have a responsible and proper impact on our listeners, the one that they deserve. This is the responsibility and correctness that our society demands and expects of us, a society so keen on opportune, living, transparent, precise, serious information, but also information that is respectful and above all human. Sometimes we forget it. As editors or reporters, chiefs or gofers, our duty is to not forget it!

So the recognition that my work today receives, which is the same work of so many radio editors in Colombia, makes me very happy.

And that’s why, at this festival and on this date, and with this incomparable joy, I cannot forget Gabo: “Though you may suffer like a dog, there is no better job than journalism.”

But this joy must not distract me. I am aware of the great responsibility that journalists today bear, and even more so the responsibility of an editor. The profession, or the trade (however one chooses to take it on and exercise it), has required of me commitment and consecration from that day in 1988 when I became Editor in Chief of a radio company that had welcomed me when I was practically still a child. Since then, I have been and continue to be captivated by this profession that is rooted in the Colombian oral tradition.

Today, before you, I once again commit to exalting the legacy of Clemente Manuel Zabala. It carries enormous weight. It is a legacy printed in gold-plated letters that recognizes a professional, profound body of work that was unostentatious but also truly unattainable—to have been Gabo’s teacher, and to be considered one of the pioneers of contemporary journalism in Colombia.

Now, as I approach the epilogue of my career, this award forces me to meditate on the direction in which our profession is headed, a journalism that at times seems as unbridled as our society.

We know it and we acknowledge it: This journalism of ours, the one that makes of Latin America one family, is courageous, outstanding, profound, passionate journalism. Here, at this festival and in its media, in its territories and in its conscience, it is a substantial asset for the defense of institutions. It is the essence of democracy. And journalism and democracy—consubstantial as they are—will not perish.

We must recognize that at times this journalism breaks boundaries as if it threatened to lose its way. At other times, especially among the new generations, it has become superficial.

How many times have we seen a simple bit of information drive some reporters crazy. How many times has someone gone berserk. We find publications that, governed by the eagerness of the beginner, lack correctness, measured elaboration, context. Worst of all, in some cases, they lack even sufficient verification. To verify. What a word! It is essential, and if we neglect it, it will be on its way to extinction. Now, often irresponsibly, we conjugate that verb by heading to social networks rather than to sources. And we are falling into a trap that threatens to gradually devour journalism. We cannot allow networks replace to it. We must not allow it.

Or as the Ursula Iguaráns of the world have said, in those same lands that Remedios la Bella wandered across: “Ajá, cuando mulo no moría, gallinazo ¿qué comía?”

And there was Clemente Manuel Zabala, ever the attentive, sagacious, accurate editor, the guidance counselor, the teacher. Here we must underscore the job of editors: to resolve problems, to correct mistakes, and to ensure clarity and quality. But we also have to learn from our journalists. We must trust them and yet examine their information with prudence and caution and keep them away from the perverse power of manipulation. Working with them to stay up to date when it comes to the language of technology and applications, but also cultivating in them curiosity, mistrust, and rigor.

The work of the editor must guarantee that the message is in line with the editorial agenda set by superiors and that it upholds the ethical values and the basic codes of journalistic deontology, which must be as inseparable from the journalist as the buzzing is from the fly, as the great master Javier Darío Restrepo taught us.

Carpentry work, as the author of the profile wrote: to work with veracity and rigor, contrasting data and sources, applying seriousness and transparency, ensuring source protection and adequate language. And our job is also to praise the journalists when that is what is called for.

This is my work, and on this I meditate often: what we’re doing well and where we fall short. This is what I often discuss with the younger journalists, and they also teach me. And I insist on the proper use of our language, that basic and certainly indispensable tool of our profession, which is so often trampled.

My commitment, then, upon receiving this valuable award from the Gabo Foundation, is to continue in service of these values.

I give thanks to God; to my mother, who, although her mind appears to be a little far away, I know is experiencing this moment with joy; to my father who, of course, had the soul of a journalist; to Claudia, Luisa, and Laura, the substance of my being.

Here goes a thank you to my whole family, to the Gabo Foundation, and to the jury for having identified in me the elements that merited this award. Eternal gratitude to the people at Caracol Radio, who are the true recipients of this award. To my directors who over 36 years taught me tremendous lessons in journalism and life. To my colleagues who every day fill me with energy. To all of you, thank you very much.

I’m happy. I share this award with all the other nominees and with all of those who are or have been editors. On their behalf, I receive this Clemente Manuel Zabala Award, named for an exemplary editor who guided the brilliance and vitality of the great Gabo.

With my family, I issue my infinite thanks for this award. I receive it with pride and with a certain vanity. The great Gabo said it already: “Disbelief holds out longer than faith, because it is rests on the senses.” I urge you—allow me to cast modesty aside to say to you: I do deserve this recognition. Thank you!

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