In the wake of the 12 January earthquake that devastated southern Haiti, Global Voices assembled a small team of editors and authors to provide detailed coverage of rescue, relief, and recovery efforts. One of our challenges is the relatively small scale of Haitian citizen media. Very few Haitians currently use online tools to publicly share news or opinions. In the past two weeks, Global Voices has leaned heavily on the social media streams of a handful of regular tweeters and bloggers with access to electricity and Internet connections. We've supplemented this coverage with information from the blogs and Twitter streams of foreign aid workers and NGOs on the ground.
We at Global Voices believe there is an urgent need to amplify Haitian perspectives on relief and reconstruction efforts. One crucial way is to increase citizen media activity locally in Haiti, thereby making available more news and commentary that may positively affect awareness, interest, conversations, and decisions in the coming months.
To this end, Global Voices has sent a two-person team to Port-au-Prince, to help support citizen media coverage. GV's managing director Georgia Popplewell and former Francophonia editor Alice Backer have spent the past six days assessing the situation on the ground, making contact with Haitians using citizen media tools, and identifying others with the potential to participate in and enrich the online conversation, given the right resources.
Both have been issuing regular reports via their personal blogs and Twitter accounts: Georgia at Caribbean Free Radio and @georgiap, Alice at Kiskeácity and @kiskeacity. Georgia is also posting photos at her Flickr account. And we will be using their firsthand reporting to complement Global Voices’ coverage of the ongoing online conversation.
Writing at her blog a few days before leaving for Haiti, Georgia explained:
I suspect that given the magnitude of the damage—and the magnitude of US involvement in the relief and reconstruction efforts—the Haiti earthquake isn’t going to disappear from the pages of the major media in the way that other stories have. But it’s going to be a different kind of coverage, and one that won’t necessarily highlight local stories.
Another of our key goals, therefore, is to highlight the need for local voices in the mix and increase the opportunities for communities affected by the earthquake to be heard and understood by those working and reporting on the recovery—a group that includes Haitian institutions and media as well as international agencies. We don’t expect it will be easy: Haiti is a complex place and the damage to the country has been severe.