Haiti's infrastructural devastation in the wake of last week's earthquake highlights media's critical role in facilitating relief efforts. Mark Frohardt knows this all too well. Frohardt is Vice President for Health and Humanitarian Media at Internews, an international media and development organization mandated to empower local media. He and his team arrive in disaster areas at the height of crises to fill gaps in information sharing and provide local media outlets with the necessary tools to rebuild.
While international mainstream media broadcast Haiti's devastation to the world, Frohardt turned his attention to media inside the country. Like other obstacles facing Haiti, challenges to relaunching the country's media networks run deep. Though a few local radio and TV stations were back on the air a few days after the quake, "we don't know how much of [the content was] really information about the response to the crisis," Frohardt explained in an interview with NPR's On the Media.
Many Haitian journalists are not at work; rebuilding homes, locating family members and securing food have taken priority. Among Internews' provisions are stipends covering local journalists' basic needs, allowing them to return to work disseminating information to relief agencies and affected populations.
Internews' local focus means building and maintaining relationships with developing media outlets worldwide; the organization has had an employee based in Haiti for four years. With contacts already in place, the first challenge lay in determining where the population was getting its information and ensuring that relief agencies had access to open channels. Next came establishing makeshift news outlets to keep information sharing afloat until existing stations were back on the air. Frohardt describes this process in an Internews video from Haiti: