But a 2009 report from a team led by Anya Schiffrin, a professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, tried to do just that, and could prove instructive as such efforts unfold in Haiti. Her research team interviewed dozens of African editors and reporters and found that after journalism training reporters used less jargon and exhibited more independent analysis, balance, appropriate sourcing, and improved story structure. In the long run, Schiffrin concludes that educational and legal reforms would be critical, but that there could also be more immediate benefits to supporting journalism networks with a common goal.*

To teach such lessons in Haiti, Shaw helped build a coalition of independent journalists, including partnerships with a reporters’ association (AJH), the news agency Groupe Medialternatif, the watchdog-journalism collaborative Haiti Grassroots Watch, and others. An AJH consortium ran trainings to prepare for last year’s elections, and set up two press centers in the provinces, allowing local journalists to work together away from the government and UN facilities on which many rely. There are plans to open another two press centers and to partner with universities to support journalism education and investigative skills training. Through IMS’s side company, Media Frontiers, they are also experimenting with an advertising network called Protore, which sells geo-targeted advertising—ads aimed at wealthier diaspora communities identified by their foreign IP addresses—to boost revenues for media outlets in developing countries.*

Besides IMS, Shaw said there aren’t many long term media development organizations in Haiti right now. But feeling alone isn’t unusual now that most of the international media is long gone. Shaw pointed to a litany of challenges Haitian journalists have faced out of the world’s spotlight: political turmoil in the countryside, the arson attack on a community radio stations, and a threatening remark that President Michel Martelly leveled at a journalist during a televised press conference in March, before he took office. “I think it guarantees the media sector will come under fire. At the same time,” he said, “there are opportunities, as people have been saying, to try and do something new. And I think the media needs to be positively critical, rather than easily cynical.”

Of course, that would be easier with more for Haitians and Haitian journalists to be positive about. “If we had more actual reconstruction, we would have more things to cover,” said Georges Michel of Le Nouvelliste. “We are workers in the kitchen . . . the ovens are burning, but we are still waiting for the ingredients.”


UPDATE, 8/16: Due to an editor’s error, a near-final draft of this article was originally published. That version contained several errors, including its descriptions of Robert Shaw’s relationship to the coalition of journalism organizations that includes Haiti Grassroots Watch, the members of the coalition, and who administered the election coverage trainings. The earlier version also imprecisely described the number of Haitians who speak French. The errors have been corrected, and further information about Anya Schiffrin’s conclusions has been added. We regret the error.

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William Wheeler has written for USA Today, Good magazine, Foreign Affairs, and The Christian Science Monitor. His travel to Haiti was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.