A group of journalism organizations have been communicating regularly since early February to determine how to help Haitian print journalists recover from the devastating earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010. The group originally consisted primarily of staff and representatives of the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) and the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), but over the course of several rounds of conference calls has grown to include the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), UNITY: Journalists of Color, Poder Magazine and the Poynter Institute.
Although radio is by far the most important source of news for the Haitian public, the members of the nascent Haiti News Project decided early on to focus on helping Haitian newspaper journalists, for two reasons: Our collective expertise is primarily in print journalism, and the Internews Network, an international media development organization, is already leading a substantial effort to assist the Haitian radio industry.
Our first step was to commission an assessment of the facts on the ground by Miami Herald reporters Trenton Daniel and Martin Merzer. Daniel and Merzer found that there are two newspapers in Haiti, Le Nouvelliste and Le Matin, and both are published solely in French, which is understood by no more than 10 percent of the Haitian population. However, both papers served an outsized function in pre-quake Haitian public affairs and tended to serve as seminal sources of news that was re-broadcast on radio.
The report also found that both newspapers sustained significant staff losses, mostly through attrition — staffers leaving the city or the country in response to the deaths of their relatives and/or the loss of their homes — rather than through death or injury.
With seed money raised through contributions from ASNE, IAPA and the Miami Herald, we hired Joe Ogelsby to coordinate our efforts. Joe was the Herald‘s former editorial page editor and he has written extensively about Haiti over the years. In fact, he was part of a team at the Herald that won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing in 1983 for its campaign against the detention of illegal Haitian immigrants by federal officials.
Joe organized a conference call this weekend in conjunction with the mid-year IAPA meeting in Aruba. With several of us convening in a meeting room at the Westin Aruba and others connecting to the call from the U.S. and Haiti, we heard from several representatives of the Haitian print media, including Le Nouvelliste Publisher Max Chauvet, Joseph Guyler Delva of Reuters and Jacques de Rosier.
During the call we determined that Haitian journalists have an urgent need for the following:
• Equipment and technology;
• Tents for those journalists who are still homeless six weeks after the earthquake struck; and
• Professional training
So we will be focusing our efforts on procuring equipment, tents and training for the journalists of Haiti. Within the next few days we will provide details to let you know how you can help.
— Richard Karpel, ASNE Executive Director