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The Studs Terkel Awards celebrate the storytellers in journalism who get it right.

But like many of Public Narrative’s programs, it is also an opportunity for journalists and community leaders to connect.

And it happens organically.

Ask Jesse Iñiguez, who attended his first-ever Terkel Awards program in 2017.

Over hors-d’oeuvres, he met Chicago Tribune reporter and Terkel Award winner Mary Schmich. The two talked and Schmich took an interest in his work and the coffee shop he hoped to open in the Back of the Yards, a neighborhood not often associated with entrepreneurship.

“When we hear about Back of the Yards it’s when something [violent] happens because that’s when the reporters are sent,” Iñiguez says. And he told Schmich about his business, his desire to serve quality coffee in his neighborhood. Schmich, being a great reporter, told his story in her column. She wrote:

“While artsy coffeehouses have flourished in other Chicago neighborhoods, good coffee remains hard to find on the city’s southwest side.
“This is a coffee shop desert,” Iniguez said, “aside from Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts.”
He said he’s been told that “Mexicans won’t drink good coffee.”
His reply: “They’re not drinking it because no one’s serving it.”

Says Iñiguez: “The story went viral and got shared throughout the country, and we got a lot of really good press before we had even opened our doors.”

His experience made him realize that the Terkel Awards gave him a chance to meet and connect with journalists as well as other nonprofits in a way no other event in the city makes possible.

“It was nice being able to be around journalists that work and live in the style of Studs Terkel, really telling stories about people and the community,” he says.