Tag Archives: Haiti

Some Sunday reading on Haiti

It’s been almost three weeks since a powerful earthquake struck Haiti, leading to the deaths of over 150,000 people, leaving hundreds of thousands more injured, homeless or without access to the necessities of life.

Despite the various crises affecting the news media, the response has been immense, especially in Montreal, which has a large Haitian community. The major newspaper chains have sent reporters and photographers (and have now sent relief crews to replace those they originally sent), the TV networks have sent correspondents, almost every TV network in Quebec, Canada and the United States has aired a fundraiser for relief efforts, and Haiti coverage continues to dominate the news here. The question of whether it’s being covered too much was raised over a week ago.

I admit I was a bit surprised by all this attention. I expected major news organizations to send reporters, but not papers like The Gazette, the Journal de Québec or the Toronto Star. After all, it’s not cheap.

But as grateful as I am for all the attention, I’ve started to zone out with the Haiti coverage. Yes, there are lots of orphans, people are desperate, lots of people died. The anecdotes being told by the reporters are touching, but they kind of blend in after the 100th story or so.

Still, even more than two weeks later, there are still some stories worth reading. Here’s a few that have been recommended to me through social media:

  • Sue Montgomery, who left for Haiti shortly after the earthquake for The Gazette, writes about the experience of rushing to a disaster area on short notice. A lot of it is inside journalistic baseball (which makes it perfect for this blog’s readers), but it’s interesting to read just for the little anecdotes, like running outside half-naked during an aftershock, or paying $6,900 for a helicopter ride from the Dominican Republic.
  • Phil Carpenter, the photographer who was sent with Montgomery, also writes about the experience for J-Source.
  • Montgomery, in turn, recommends this piece by Peggy Curran, about the political history of Haiti and how much of a mess the country was in long before the earthquake hit. It’s a good picture of what happened to this country from the time it was discovered by Christopher Columbus to the reign of the Duvaliers.
  • Patrick Lagacé is tired of the bullshit going on in Haiti, from all parties involved. About how Haitians still believe in their country, despite the absolute mess it’s in. About how passive they are. About how the international community still clings to the idea that Haiti has some sort of government.
  • In the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof isn’t anywhere near Haiti. Instead, he’s in Congo, where millions have died and gangs of thugs go around killing and raping people, and no one seems to care. He just wishes we paid as much attention to the non-natural disaster there as we did to the earthquake. (He has more on his blog.)

Just give money, m’kay?

Mittens for Haiti!

I passed by this donation bin setup at Concordia for Haiti. In it, I saw bags with scarves, winter coats, and mittens.

I’m guessing they were from people who have never been to Haiti, and who aren’t experts in meteorology. (Or, as someone comments below, hopefully for Haitian refugees coming here, which would save on shipping costs.)

The difficulty in getting supplies (particularly the right ones) to disaster zones is one of the reasons charities ask you to give money instead of stuff. A lot of stuff, unfortunately, is useless.

Hope for Haiti Now is on until 10 p.m. on CBC, CTV, Global, CityTV, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, Vermont Public Television, CNN, MuchMusic, MTV Canada, National Geographic Channel, WGN, WPIX and BET. Quebec’s Ensemble pour Haïti airs on Radio-Canada, TVA, V, Télé-Québec, TV5, LCN, RDI, MusiMax and Musique Plus.

Remember if you’re watching the U.S. special to donate to Canadian charities to take advantage of the government’s donation matching program 1-877-51-HAITI or canadaforhaiti.com.

Rue Frontenac and donation priorities

There’s a debate going on, sparked by Steve Proulx, about whether Montrealers should be directing their donations directly to Haiti relief than by funding a trip by journalists from Rue Frontenac to cover the devastation.

It’s a simple argument, but there are a lot of nuanced points to consider on both sides:

  • Donations aren’t always a zero-sum game (though “donor fatigue” was brought into the lexicon after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and Hurricane Katrina in 2005). Different causes attract different people, and the difference may not be between donating to Rue Frontenac and donating to Haiti, but between donating to Rue Frontenac and keeping the money to oneself.
  • There are already plenty of journalists in Haiti covering it. Is there really an advantage to sending more of them, especially when they might put even more strain on the already struggling resources of the area? Especially when the stories they file, while very emotional, don’t provide much in the way of useful news?
  • People making these donations are grown-ups and can decide for themselves how much money goes to humanitarian causes and how much goes to fund journalism
  • If we accept this logic, then how will organizations like Spot.Us (Dominic Arpin notes the similarity between the two) that take donations for journalism ever be able to cover humanitarian crises?
  • Rue Frontenac is not a newspaper. It’s not a profit-making enterprise. Its purpose is technically as a pressure tactic in negotiations with the Journal de Montréal to get locked-out journalists and other employees back to work. It doesn’t need to send journalists to Haiti to prove itself.

I stopped by Rue Frontenac’s offices this week and had a chat with one of its journalists, Jean-François Codère. He argued that other news media sending journalists to Haiti (and everyone’s doing it – The Gazette, La Presse, TVA, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, CTV, CBC among others) at much expense rather than donating money to relief causes.

Personally, I see both sides. I prefer to give my money to the Red Cross than Rue Frontenac because I think what Haiti is suffering from right now is not a lack of western journalists. But I don’t blame anyone for wanting to put a few bucks toward their plane tickets (their salaries are being paid out of the union’s strike fund). It’s their choice.

In any case, they’ve already got money and are reporting from Haiti. Vincent Larouche has a report and Martin Bouffard has photos and a video.

It’s all about the Bordens: Cough ’em up for Haiti

So Haiti’s in trouble. Like, a crapload of trouble. And the world is coming together to do whatever they can. Food and supplies aren’t particularly useful because of the high cost of transporting and distributing them. Instead, the thing charities and relief organizations need is money.

In a perfect world, a massive international relief organization would simply respond, making use of a hefty budget to set up some emergency shelters while everyone’s homes are rebuilt using insurance money. Of course, that’s not the case (partially because international aid tends not to win many elections), so regular people are being asked to open their wallets and help out.

While the most obvious thing to do would be to give to the Red Cross, various groups are organizing fundraisers or other schemes to try to squeeze even more money out of us.

After a few minutes of searching, here’s what I’ve found is happening in Montreal over the next week and a half:

Feel free to suggest others in the comments below. Agenda Public has a list of similar events across Quebec.

Text it and forget it

For those of you who are too fucking lazy to punch your credit card number securely into a website and prefer to have your cellphone company bill you based on a fee for a text message you’ve sent to some unverified five-digit number you heard about through your friend’s Twitter, there are plenty of options for that, though few work in Canada (that “90999” thing you heard about on the Colbert report doesn’t work here – something CTV didn’t relay to its viewers when it rebroadcasted the show on two of its networks). The cellphone companies accept $5 to 45678, and Plan Canada at 30333 (in both cases text “HAITI”). But maybe I just made that up, or copied the number down wrong.

Really, just give it to the Red Cross. Don’t trust your friends, don’t trust people on the street, don’t trust celebrities, don’t trust businesses and don’t trust anyone saying your money goes toward Haiti relief.

Journalists: Donate your overtime

The earthquake in Haiti, ironically, had a positive impact on my bottom line. The paper was expanded in size to fit all the extra news coverage, and I was called in for an unscheduled shift on Thursday night. Rather than profit off the misery, I’m donating my salary for that shift to the Red Cross.

I know there are plenty of journalists and other media types who read this blog, and plenty of them are working more than they usually do because of this craziness. I’d encourage you to do the same – you’re not losing money, you’re working harder doing what you love, and it’s for a good cause.