Since the devasting earthquake of Jan. 12, many Haitian journalists have lost their jobs, had their pay reduced drastically and, frankly, found it a struggle just to survive.
Many lost their cameras, laptops and the basic equipment and supplies they need to survive. Some are homeless and, at times, hungry. They fight a daily battle amid desperation and chaos that most of us can’t even imagine. Yet they do whatever they can to communicate to people throughout the country for whom an announcement about dry shelter or a food distribution site is a godsend.
With the Haiti News Project, we’re trying to help Haitian journalists do their jobs by standing with them and giving them all the moral and material support we can muster. Our consortium is comprised of several news organizations, including the ASNE, IAPA, NABJ, Poder magazine, Unity: Journalists of Color, Poynter Institute and IRE.
We’ve spent the past several weeks assessing the extent of damage and loss and developing plans for the recovery of journalism in Haiti and its long-term survial. We’ve found that first and foremost, as amazing as it seems, many journalists in Haiti simply need a tent where they can have a modicum of privacy, get a bit of respite from the sun and have some kind of minimal protection during the encroaching rainy season.
I’ve been in touch with several organizations already in Haiti, including the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), that have access to tents and can quickly get them to journalists who need them. Haitian journalism groups have identified 250 to 300 journalists and their families who urgently need shelter.
Although the PADF can shift some of their resources to help, they need financial support to get tents to all of the journalist who need them. If you want to help, please send your charitable contribution to the ASNE (American Society of News Editors) Foundation, 11690B Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, VA, 20191. Note on your check that the donation is for the Haiti News Project.
In addition to tents, we’ve determined that journalists in Haiti need:
Laptops with software to edit sound, photo and video (750) ;
Tape recorders: semi-professional digital tape recorder (500);
Video cameras : semi-professional video (40);
Photo cameras: (40).
While tents and equipment will help alleviate some of the immediate problems Haitian journalists face, we recognize that journalists in Haiti face bigger obstacles to recovery. The earthquake damaged or destroyed media buildings, printing presses, broadcasting equipment and computers. Worse still, many of the businesses and companies that supported media with their advertising are no longer in business. This loss of infrastructure is potentially crippling for Haiti newspapers and broadcasters, if not, in fact, permanently disabling.
The best estimates are that it will take many advertisers a year or longer to recover enough to resume even a modicum of advertising. This could be a death knell for many media outlets, including the largest newspapers in Port-au-Prince — Le Nouvelliste and Le Matin. Both papers were forced to layoff staff and set up temporary facilities in order to deliver a semblance of what they produced prior to the earthquake.
These papers, both published in French, were the agenda-setters for media throughout Haiti, which relies primarily on radio for news. The papers’ return to full publishing is critical to restoring any sense of normalcy to Haiti. The country’s only newspaper published in Creole, Bon Nouvel, also was lost to the earthquake, and with it printing presses that published Creole-language books.
The challenges facing Haiti journalists are enormous, but with sustained effort and support can be alleviated.
Joe Oglesby — Haiti Project Coordinator, 305-608-2333, Miami, FL,