Posted by: marshamwhite | April 28, 2010

The Boston Haitian Reporter

Jan. 12, 2010 will be remembered as the day tragedy struck the Caribbean island of Haiti. As news of this 7.0  magnitude earthquake tore through the country, the rest of the world watched and waited for details of this catastrophe. News of this occurrence rippled through social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook like waves of a tumultuous current of information. One local newspaper made a quick decision to participate in this crisis in hopes of disseminating information from Haiti to the large population of Haitian-Americans in Massachusetts seeking answers about the whereabouts of their family and state of their native land.

The Boston Haitian Reporter saw the chaos surrounding the Greater Boston area as people searched for news of their relatives and immediately encouraged people in Haiti that had access to any form of communication, to relay that information onto their website. They instantly implemented a more convenient and consumer-friendly blog that helped alleviate the stress, confirmed family members that were alive and be the premier source of news for most Haitians residing in New England and other areas of the country.

Started in 2001, the Boston Haitian Reporter is a monthly newspaper that serves as a publication for and by the Haitian-American communities in New England. The editorial aims at bridging the gap between Haitian-born immigrants and the younger generations of the Haitian youth.

Bill Forry, an Irish-American, founded the Reporter with his wife, Linda Forry, a Haitian-American state politician, as another media outlet to address the socio-economic status of these immigrants.

“There was a need for a publication that addressed issues in Boston and it was not happening in print but on radio and TV, that was not accessible to everyone,” Bill Forry said.

Forry comes from a line of family-owned publications that circulate throughout New England. The Dorchester Reporter and Mattapan Reporter, both community based newspapers, were launched in 1983 by Forry’s parents, Ed and Mary Forry, and are both owned by the Boston Neighborhood News, Inc. In 1990, the Boston Irish Reporter was another addition by the Forrys and is an Irish-American monthly newspaper that focuses on issues in the Irish community.

Another reason for the commencement of this publication was to cater to the political interests of Haitians and address U.S. government policies that directly affected the Caribbean country.

Forry said that most people in power at the federal level are not Haitian and there was a big disconnect between the US government and Haitians. The use of the ethnic newspaper served as a “vehicle to address” the needs of the people.

The Reporter is distributed freely throughout highly populated areas of Haitian residents throughout Boston such as Mattapan and Dorchester and written in English. Steve Desrosiers, who works as a contributing editor for the Reporter in the Arts section, explained that “all the previous Haitian newspapers have been written in Creole and didn’t cater to young kids or to Americans who might have an interest about learning about Haitian culture… This particular newspaper gets advertisers who are non-Haitian to be invited into the conversation.”

In addition, the paper employs professionals in the Haitian Diaspora to write about the history, struggles, challenges and events of the Haitian experience in Boston.

Online news sites like the Reporter and CNN.com provided a general account of the suffering, deaths and displacement of the Haitian citizens to the nation and many Haitian-immigrants and those of Haitian descent could only pray and await more information.  Back home in Boston, Haitian-Americans and immigrants account for over “55,000 of the general population according to the 2006-2008 US Census surveys” and they have become one of the largest minority groups in Massachusetts.

Forry went into full action and encouraged people in Haiti and others traveling to Haiti to share their experience. He contacted Richard Innocent, a former advertising salesman for the Reporter who was in Haiti working on a project to build a rice mill, when the earthquake struck. Innocent said that Forry constantly called him to get news on the situation in Haiti “on ground.”

“It felt like a bomb being dropped… homes down, people in disarray. Fear was the biggest thing there,” Innocent said. He would call Forry and give instant updates about Haiti and Forry would put the information on the website.

Several days later after the quake, Forry also came into contact with Jimmy Lebon, a Haitian-American from Boston who had to travel to Haiti to confirm the death of his brother. He flew to Haiti on Jan.15 and returned to Boston on Jan.25.  Throughout his time there, he managed to get email access on his phone and sent a daily account of his time in Haiti to his contact list. He agreed to share his account and his video posting with the newspaper and it was submitted on the website. Hundreds of people came to the website to get an eyewitness account.

“We were the outside that had an inside look,” Lebon said.

Other people like Sophia Pierre, a Haitian-American and Northeastern alumni, searched for answers for the whereabouts of her grandmother and relied heavily on the Reporter’s website for more information on the status of her country.

“The website gave me a great deal of insight on what was going on in Haiti and it felt more personal than other sites.”

The Phoenix published an article that praised the effective blogging of the tragic earthquake on the Reporter’s website. The Phoenix said the Reporter offered “oral accounts of life on the ground post-quake, that Forry turns into heady glimpses of the current realities in Port-au-Prince.”

The Reporter’s website was a recent addition to the publication and was running for about a year. With sections like, the news, opinion, editorial, arts, history, people, politics and Ruth’s recipes and widgets like Haiti rewired, the live updates, Twitter feed and blogs was a great addition to the site.

Seven months prior to the catastrophe, Forry and his staff redeveloped the site to give it a better platform. The site was not used as a sole source of distributing the paper until the advent of the earthquake.

“There wasn’t a lot of planning– it almost happened organically,” Forry said.

Forry felt it was also important to contact people and organizations in Boston that helped in the relief efforts.

Nancy Rachel Rousseau, who works for the Urban College of Boston and event planner, submitted her experience online. She wrote “Reflections on the ‘Hibernian Miracle’ and its follow-up” that showed the efforts made by Bostonians to aid in the crisis. Rousseau was impressed by the general help Haiti received through donations.

“It was overwhelmingly emotional to see 2,500 people attend a Haitian benefit event,” she said.

Currently, the Boston Haitian Reporter continues to circulate throughout the state and with their impressive coverage of Haiti, they will remain a premier source for Haitians and those interested in the culture for New England. The newspaper continues to provide post-quake updates and has implemented a person locator to help loved ones find missing relatives. Readership and viewership is higher but according to Forry, it’s not about being a big revenue producer but about being a “voice for the community.”

Haitian Student Unity Banner in Curry Student Center

For slideshow on the minority perspective, views from minority students on the effectiveness of ethnic-based newspapers, click here.

Posted by: marshamwhite | April 21, 2010

Upcoming events in Boston

African Night 2010

UMass Boston’s African Student Union is hosting their annual “African Night” on Saturday, April 23 from 5pm to 9pm at the Campus Center. Donald George, international coordinator at Amistad America, will be the guest speaker followed by amazing performances and a fashion show. The event will also consist of food and an after-party. If you want to learn about the Caribbean, this is the best place to be. Plus, yours truly will be performing the South African anthem at the show. For more info, contact asu.umb@gmail.com

Tools for School

Wale will be performing at the Tools for Schools concert at Blackman Auditorium on Monday, April 26 from 6pm to 9pm. Those in attendance are encouraged to bring stationary items that will be donated to school children in Africa. The event is hosted by the African Students’ Organization and the Youth Action for Rural Africa. You can purchase your tickets at the Box Office in Ell Hall.

Marvin Sapp and other performances of Gospel Music

VOICE

The Unity Gospel Ensemble in collaboration with the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity will be hosting a gospel concert called “Voice” featuring performances by Marvin Sapp, the Kumba Singers and Voices of Imani on April 30th in Blackman. If you want to have an event full of worship and praise, well this is the place to be!

Posted by: marshamwhite | April 21, 2010

BSN or the Root?

For my class, we each had to present a newsworthy website that incorporated new journalistic features. I presented the Black Star News; a New York based investigated publication. The paper was founded in 1997 by publisher and editor-in-chief, Milton Allimadi and their mission is to uncover the truth on stories that are neglected by the mainstream media and provide a first-hand account of the Black experience in America. With seed money given to them by Bill and Camille Crosby, the stories are all online and if you are a paid subscriber, you can receive the issues at your directly at your door step.

On the website, you can find various tabs to navigate successfully and find the news you want instantly. In the “Breaking News” tab, you can find the latest stories that are happening in the nation. The “New York Watch” provides information on stories that are affecting the people of New York and the “US News” section provides news from every area of the nation. I especially like the “Global Politics” section because it gives a good account of international news especially from Africa. You can find experts’ opinions and economic plans in the “BSN Money” and “Pundit’s Corner”. My least favorite part of the website is the “Entertainment” section because it is not as up-to-date as I would like it to be but the widgets on the left (BSN-TV, Fashion, Music, Plays and Books), are very entertaining and provides a lot of multimedia aspects.

I think the BSN Blog needed the most work out of all the other features on the website. The blog features about two or three entertainment photos every month on famous celebrities and events like the Grammy’s in the Q Fashion blog. The blog branches out into five blogs and each blog has limited stories. The entire section looked sloppy and amateur.

One site that is similar to the BSN’s mission is the Root, an online magazine that provides a black perspective on issues of today. The Root, in my opinion, has an organized and professional webpage that is consumer friendly and easier to navigate. The stories are all up to date and the viewership on this site seems more than on BSN. BSN would receive one or two comments on a story and the Root would receive ten or more. I loved how they separated multimedia into its own section and you have the option of selecting video, photos or podcast. The blog component on BSN is also impressive and well-organized and provides blogs from the blog family, contributors and friends of the Root.

 Overall, if I had to choose between Black Star News and the Root, I would choose the Root. The layout of the website was more convenient and didn’t look busy or confusing. I think both newspapers are great in that they are showing the struggles people of the African Diaspora face here in the US and abroad. I think both news sites should be commended on their mission to show black perspectives and provide an alternative to traditional news sites.

Posted by: marshamwhite | April 21, 2010

Journalism Entrepreneurship

Dan Gregory, a Northeastern senior academic specialist in the  School of Technological Entrepreneurship spoke to us about journalism entrepreneurship. His role as the adviser for Idea, Northeastern’s venture accelerator, helps students to organize and develop their business goals and objectives.He encouraged the class on using our skills as journalists to start our own business in the future.

I think that combining journalism and business is a great resource for the community. Global Post is a great example of journalism entrepreneurship and their role in society proves that if you have a vision and implement that vision, it will serve the public good. Global Post reaches a large demographic and covers stories all over the world.

If I were to start an organization, I think it would follow the same model as Global Post. I would gather a team of journalists and send them to various Caribbean islands. They will report stories with multimedia dimensions and be the premier news source for Caribbean news. Like the Boston Haitian Reporter, I want Caribbean-Americans and Caribbean immigrants living in the US to have a better sense of what is happening back home. Whether it’s social, political or issues relating to the economy, I want my organization to stand out from the rest and also provide up-to-date access from blogs.

Posted by: marshamwhite | April 20, 2010

StepFest 2010

This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending StepFest which is an annual step competition hosted by the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority at Northeastern University. The all day event took place at Matthews Arena and had performances by other black Greeks included the Alphas, Sigmas, Deltas, and the Kappas. The rain did not stop people from attending the event and Matthews looked jam packed with people. There were Greeks from all over the US including Atlanta, DC, and New York. There was a kids dance performance that was sweet and actually pretty entertaining. To top it off, Letoya Luckett, former Destiny’s Child member and now solo artist, performed at the end of the show. The Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity were the winners of StepFest 2010.

For more pics, click here!

Posted by: marshamwhite | April 20, 2010

The Circus is back!

I intern at Channel 7 in the Special Projects Department and on my lunch break, I realized that the Big Apple Circus is back in Boston at the City Hall plaza.If you’re interested in the Circus and feel like a kid again, I suggest you go to their website and check out the prices and other information.The weather’s nice and you have no reason NOT to go!

Posted by: marshamwhite | April 20, 2010

Reggae Musicians denied visas

So a couple of weeks ago, I heard that popular reggae musicians were being denied entry into the US. I didn’t find the news surprising since many Caribbean artists are notorious for violating US immigration laws and finding themselves into legal issues. What surprised me was that one of the performers, Beenie Man, who has performed with Janet Jackson, Mya and other popular artists was on the list of getting his visa revoked as well.  Mavado is also becoming popular in the US having performed with Jay Z and on Rip the Runway.

At first I thought it was an April Fool’s joke since the news came out on April 1 but when several other sites confirmed it including the OvertheLimit blog, I had no idea what to think. For one, there wasn’t a good reason for revoking their visas and two, these musicians are going to lose millions of dollars by not performing abroad.  So many shows for this year have already promoted and booked these artists to perform so I don’t know what is going to happen but I’ll definitely keep you updated. I mean what’s a reggaefest without reggae artists?

Posted by: marshamwhite | April 12, 2010

Anonymous posting or real names?

We are all familiar with the comments section of a news article that allows for readers to post their opinions freely. Well, this exercise of our right to “freedom of speech,”I think, have been taken advantage of.  A lot of people post anonymously on these sites and the feedback they provide is far from constructive. I’ve seen comments on some sites that are racially motivated and offer a very ignorant perspective. Take for example Northeastern’s independent newspaper, the Huntington News, which offer students an option of commenting on a story. Even though you are required to enter your name, email in order to comment, people falsify their names and emails. I recently read, “Ryan Fox re-elected SGA President,” one person posing as “almost alum” wrote “what a tool.” Now, a student posted a letter to the Huntington News about the Student Government and there were 20 comments under the letter. Some of the comments were constructive, while most were pretty disappointing. A reader posting as “NU’s Voice of Reason” called the author a “stain upon the fabric of society, and a drain on the prestige of this university.” The author actually challenges the person and asks him to reveal his identity.

The author posted,”if you have something to say about me, then please post you name, other wise all I know is that there is one really bored person out there who doesn’t like me.”

I actually agree with that statement because anonymous posting gives people a cowardly way of addressing situations. I think that anonymous posting should be completely erased or there should be a better system in place for people to comment only if they are registered with the news organization and provide factual information about themselves.

I definitely think that this sort of action should occur at other professional news sites such as the New York Times, Boston.com, etc. I think it ultimately takes away ignorance in society and provides a way for constructive dialogue and feedback that may ultimately better the world.

Posted by: marshamwhite | April 10, 2010

NewsTrust or not?

Almost all journalists think that the work they publish is stellar and remarkable.  Like other professions, journalists have to live up and exceed the expectations of their job in order to gain recognition for well-written stories. Most journalists have never experienced public criticism of their work unless it deals with published errors and misspelling of names and places. NewsTrust, however, could serve as every journalist’s nightmare or dream, depending on the way you look at it. NewsTrust allows journalists and non-journalists to review and rate stories of published works. On one hand, journalists may receive praise and on the other hand, they may be criticized for their work.  For my “Reinventing the News” class, we had to submit and rate three stories and reflect on our overall NewsTrust experience.

I think it was a lot of fun searching for stories for submission and I tried to submit interesting international stories. One story titled, “Fat in Thailand: Thai-a-betes epidemic,” reveals the growing increase of diabetes in developing countries including Thailand where statistics show that 1 in 10 people in Thailand have diabetes. The author, Patrick Winn, reveals that the diabetes epidemic is a cause of the culture’s love and overuse of sugar. When it came to reviewing the article, I was asked to rate the story’s relevance, sourcing, and whether it was well-written on a zero to five scale. In the “Notes” section, I had to explain why I thought the story followed the credentials of quality journalism.

Posting the stories was probably the worst part of the experience. Newstrust requires a URL of the story and after it asks you to edit information about the story. For one, the story was not fully copied and I had to continue copying and pasting it. This may be tedious especially if a story is two or more pages long.

On many news sites such as The Huntington News, an independent newspaper at Northeastern University, students post anonymous posts about the article and many of the postings are ignorant and extremely racially motivated. Anonymous posting had become a way for people to hide their identity and post freely (and criticize) a story. NewsTrust actually encourages people to provide their real names for their site. But there have been mystery reviewers that review other stories anonymously. I think that NewsTrust should have a way that confirms a person’s email and name in order to be part of the site.

The experience of NewsTrust was very rewarding. Although there were minor flaws, I think overall, being able to review other people’s stories helps in the long run. I think journalism would be even more exceptional in the future if people took the constructive criticism to perfect their craft.

Posted by: marshamwhite | April 4, 2010

Database Journalism

Anyone familiar with the term “database journalism”? Well, Matt Carroll, Northeastern alumni, specializes in database journalism at the Boston Globe. For the past 15 years, Carroll has helped coin the term database journalism which refers to the inclusion of data, charts, graphs, etc to demonstrate or reveal specific trends or occurrences in society. Carroll explains that one must “look for data to wirte the nut graf of a story” and provide the numbers to back it up. Carroll made a visit to my class on Wednesday, and encouraged everyone of us to get involved into database journalism.

Carroll said that he “realized that journalists hardly do stuff with data” and that digging for numbers and using that data for stories, sets him “apart from other journalists.”

In addition, Carroll explained to us that because of this specialty, he has become a resource in the newsroom and teaches his co-workers how to work with excel.

For one of his stories, Carroll had acquired data showed that gun licensing was down. After retrieving more recent information, Carroll revealed data that showed that for the last two years,  gun licensing has increased.

“People are more concerned about their safety,” he said.

In addition to this type of journalism, Carroll informed us that the journalism world is morphing and that sites such as Many Eyes, have been developed to take data and conveniently transform that data into charts and graphs in the form of visualizations.

Database journalism is an evolution of the traditional style of journalism. By incorporating visuals, the story ultimately displays more credibility. Often times we come across stories that offer general statements about certain topics and we, as readers, mistake these stories as factual. When journalists incorporate data and show it visually, the story provides more evidence to back the data presented in the story. It is exciting to see that journalims has included mapping and database to accessorize the truth and make it more credible. Traditional style journalism will remain the foundation of journalism but to forecast the future of journalism, I think it’s safe to say that database journalism is a step in the right direction.

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