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