Ready to Change the Headlines from Haiti

March 14, 2017

GPJ-HaitiPORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI — The lens of a foreign correspondent is a dangerous thing for Haiti. To the outside world, this is a country of ills. International media routinely portrays Haiti as a nest of poverty where people live miserable lives. There is no good news here.

But that’s about to change.

Global Press Institute just brought on a new cohort of journalist trainees. They are all local women who come from diverse backgrounds within Haiti. When we began interviewing applicants last month, we found much local passion about the concept of local reporters telling truer, more authentic stories about Haiti to the world. Ultimately, we found a group of women who range in age from 20 to 43, who are learning the tools to tell ethical, accurate stories that will help the world understand the fabric of Haiti.

As the first-ever country coordinator for Global Press in Haiti, I was thrilled to begin working with our future journalists. In Haiti, female journalists are rare. Here, journalism is a rich man’s profession that requires elite connections. Much like foreign correspondents, even they don’t tell real people’s stories. Journalism here is about the elite.

Yet, people in Haiti have an insatiable desire to be informed.

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Roselaure Charles discussing interviewing methods and style during last month’s training in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo by Natalia Aldana, GPJ Assignment Editor

There were many thrilling moments in the first weeks of the training. Many reporters looked shocked and bewildered as we discussed bias and reviewed the Global Press code of ethics. But as this new way of coverage, one that prioritized the issues and the voices of the people who are rarely heard, began to sink in, the new reporters slowly started pitching story ideas — things they never before considered to be newsworthy.

There was energy and even a little bit of anxiety, as reporters began to realize that something extraordinary was happening: They would soon be able to tell the stories that no one else would, or could.

Immediately, it was clear that our reporters understood a different and more complex Haiti than the one that makes international headlines. Story pitches centered on communities outside the capital, a rarity. And they focused on solutions, like a community that offers weekend schooling support for children whose parents are illiterate and cannot help them with their homework.

As our country faces ongoing challenges and uncertainties, for me, as a Haitian, it’s comforting to know that a new team of local, Haitian women is preparing to cover Haiti in a new way. Our new journalists will be mentored by a dynamic global staff. Together, we will emancipate the stories of real Haitian people.