Le Nouvelliste, Haiti’s best-read newspaper, is gaining ground in its fight to survive a knockout punch from the earthquake in January. This is impressive in a country where rebuilding homes, roads and even government ministries can drag on forever.
More to the point, it is critical that Haitians have credible sources of communications at a time when elections and a possible rewriting of the constitution may be in the offing.
The earthquake stopped the presses and forced Max and Jean-Max Chauvet, the father-and-son team that runs the paper, to relocate to temporary offices in Petionville. Progress has been slow but steady. Some of the presses are still operable, and the Chauvets recently began daily publication of a 24-page paper. But there is still much to be done.
The earthquake destroyed many of the businesses whose advertising support the paper. And presses that were damaged must be repaired or replaced.
On my visit to Le Nouvelliste Tuesday, reporters, editors and back-shop employees were busily preparing tomorrow’s paper. The scene seemed errily normal in a city where everywhere you go the scene is of broken lives and shattered dreams.
Twenty-one of the paper’s 24 reporters have returned to work. This is a credit to the Chauvets who, in these days of recession and disaster, have chosen to invest in people as well as bricks and mortar.
In the last few weeks, Le Nouvelliste’s circulation has increased to 10,000, compared to a pre-earthquake distribution of 14,000. Max Chauvet says that online readership also is up sharply, which suggests that Le Nouvelliste’s reach is spreading.
He plans to push the paper deeper into the online world, which, by my reckoning is as smart a move as investing in employees when the going is tough and handing out pink slips would be the easier choice to make.