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Haiti is more than a story for Miami Herald reporter

By eijnews

By Ashley Carnifax
The Working Press

Jacqueline Charles, right, of the Miami Herald, accepted her SDX award on Saturday night from Sue Porter, a member of the SDX board. Nikki Villoria/The Working Press

Few reporters are so dedicated to their beats that they are willing to pack up and live somewhere else for a year and a half.
But that’s exactly what Jacqueline Charles did.
The Caribbean correspondent for The Miami Herald moved to Haiti to document its recovery after a devastating January 2010 earthquake.
For her efforts to keep Haiti in the news, Charles was awarded the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Foreign Correspondence at Saturday’s SDX Awards ceremony.
“Every time either myself or the Herald is honored for our work in Haiti, basically it is just a reminder to the people that this is a story that is important,” she said. “It keeps the story and the country in the news, in the limelight, in the spotlight.”
Charles said while she doesn’t focus on journalism for the awards, she appreciates being recognized for good work.
“I see it also as a recognition of The Miami Herald and the commitment that the newspaper has made to the story,” said Charles, who is of Haitian descent.
Charles said keeping Haiti in the news is important for its recovery and for the many problems it struggles to overcome, from political instability to health crises to hurricanes and earthquakes.
More than 200,000 people are believed to have died in the January 2010 earthquake, which caused billions of dollars in damage and reduced many of the buildings to rubble in the capital of Port-au-Prince.
After the earthquake, Charles said her number of Twitter followers jumped from 250 to more than 10,300, with most seeking information on the country.
“The country didn’t just undergo the worst natural disaster in the hemisphere in recent history,” she said. “But at the same time, it has been in political crisis, because we had elections and the elections didn’t go as everyone had planned. And so it required the involvement of the international community.”
Haiti is still without a prime minister or functioning government more than two months after elections were held, and attention is shifting to other parts of the world, Charles said.

“Journalism is still a very difficult job. … There’s a sense that there’s hope. The country still matters, they’re still getting reported on in the mainstream press.”

“You see that aid agencies are packing up and moving on, [because] we have a crisis in Africa,” she said. “But at the same time, you are hoping that they do not forget about Haiti, because recovery is still ongoing and the reconstruction needs to take place.”
Charles said Haiti’s people appreciate her coverage even if they don’t always agree with it.
“I think that for Haitians, the fact that I am of Haitian heritage and I am working on a mainstream newspaper in the United States, whether they like my stories or not, there is a sense of pride and they are very happy,” she said.
The sense of pride is such that Voila, one of Haiti’s telephone companies, sent text messages across the country after the National Association of Black Journalists named Charles its Journalist of the Year in April.
Charles said having reporters in Haiti is important because of the journalism atmosphere in the country. She said Haitians also look to the Herald for an international perspective on their problems.
“We’ve had journalists that have been killed,” she said. “Journalism is still a very difficult job so when they see me, there’s a sense that there’s hope. The country still matters, they’re still getting reported on in the mainstream press. That yes, for journalists, especially for Haitian journalists, there is another venue, there is a voice, there is an outlet.”