Haitian Media Report

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Report examines use of Haitian media in Miami before and after 2010 earthquake.

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School of Communication Professors Yves Colon (center), Sallie Hughes (right), and Tsitsi Wakhisi shared their report about the role Haitian Media play in Miami during an event for the Haitian community in Little Haiti. The professors were inspired to pursue this topic after Haiti’s earthquake 2010.

University of Miami School of Communication professors created an in-depth analysis of Haitian community media in   greater Miami. The study informs readers on the uses and practices of   Haitian community media before and after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.  The findings were released to the public on Wednesday,  January 18, at   the Little Haiti Cultural Center.

The report proposes the   formation of a non-profit professional association that could develop   financing and marketing mechanisms and ways to share gathering of news   and information to overcome existing journalism and business   challenges.

 “The purpose of this working paper is to make this   information available to the Haitian community in Miami and to serve as   a resource for people who want to reach the community or its media,”  said Sallie Hughes, associate professor of Journalism and Latin American   Studies at the UM School of Communication and co-author of the study.  “We wanted to look at the Haitian media in greater Miami because the   community is the largest Haitian community in the country and the   second-largest national origin group in Miami-Dade County, yet little   is known about its media in the larger society.”

The study found   that Creole- and French-language media in Miami have a significant dual   function for the Haitian community, “fostering societal cohesion and   immigrant incorporation” in Miami while at the same time helping   Haitians living in Miami to “keep informed about and participate in   what is happening in Haiti.” Thus Haitian community media support the   “creation and maintenance of a transnational community,” the study   says, akin to having one foot in the United States and another in Haiti.

Field   work for the study began in 2009 and ended in 2011, a year after the   devastating earthquake in Haiti. It is based on qualitative interviews   and focus groups of audience members who identified themselves as being   of Haitian origin, as well as journalists, publishers and media   producers in Haitian-oriented media. Lilia Santiague, an instructor at   Indiana State University, co-authors the paper. The report is available   online at www.HaitianCommunityMedia.org.

In   the immediate aftermath of the earthquake,  most Haitians in Miami   relied heavily on American network television. However,  Creole-language   radio allowed listeners to participate in talk shows and call-in   interviews that questioned government officials and shared information.

“In   the first days of the catastrophe, they all went to English speaking   television, whether they could understand it or not,” said Tsitsi   Wakhisi, associate professor of Professional Practice in Journalism at   the UM School of Communication and co-author. “The people were looking   for on-the-ground coverage, while using their cell phones to try to   reach people in Haiti; and once American networks stopped their   coverage, they relied on Haitian media.

According to the study,  the most-prevalent Creole- and French-language medium used by the   Haitian community in greater Miami is AM radio. However, the findings   suggest that differences in media use and appreciation are substantial   between language groups. Monolingual Creole speakers who participated   in the study use Haitian radio regularly to stay informed and are   fairly happy with its content; bilingual Creole and English speakers in   the study used a mix of Creole-, French- and English-language media to   stay informed and to maintain their ethnic identity, but they find   weakness with the quality of information; English-only participants in   the study turned to Haitian media rarely, mostly as a way to affirm   their Haitian-American identity.

Audience members, journalists   and media workers interviewed by the authors identified important   limitations of the Haitian media, such as quality of information;  commitment to transparency,  autonomy and public service; and financial   sustainability.

.“One of the things we found out in the study is   that especially radio is extremely fragmented,” said Yves Colon,  lecturer in Journalism at the UM School of Communication. “Because of   competition, the small operators do not want to collaborate. They   should be pulling resources together and going to advertisers as a   united front.”

The study was funded by a grant from the McCormick   Foundation, which has a great interest in increasing the wider   understanding and capacity of the United States’ vibrant ethnic media   sector.

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