For 28 years, VOA’s Creole Service has been a trustworthy and reliable source of news for the people of Haiti. Eighty percent of the service’s weekly listeners say they trust what they hear on VOA Creole (Gallup 2012).
A story told by Haiti’s Ambassador to the United States, Paul Altidor, perhaps best illustrates how highly Haitians think of the service. The ambassador said he once heard two reporters arguing over which version of a news story each had done was more accurate. The first journalist insisted his version was, while the second said his was. However, when the first one said his facts were from VOA's Creole Service, the other journalist stopped arguing, saying "If you heard it from VOA, end of discussion."
VOA Creole began its regularly scheduled radio broadcasting to Haiti in 1986, but for several years prior to that the people of Haiti had been hearing VOA on an irregular basis. The first of these irregular broadcasts was in 1981 when a newsfeed in Creole about an assassination attempt on President Reagan was attached to the end of VOA Spanish program. These irregular broadcasts, started by journalist Henry Francisque, a native of Haiti who then worked for VOA French to Africa Service, soon became very popular. But it wasn’t until the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier was overthrown in 1986 that the service began broadcasts to Haiti on a regular basis.
Over the past 28 years, many distinguished guests have been interviewed by the Creole Service, including, most recently, Haitian President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe. Today, the service broadcasts three one-hour shows Monday through Friday at 7:30 am, 12:30pm, & 5pm, and two half-hour programs on Saturdays and Sundays at 12:30pm & 5pm. That is a lot of broadcasting for a service that has only nine full-time employees, though they are assisted by one contractor and stringers in Haiti and around the U.S.
Journalism Training Program
When Ronald Cesar became the Creole Service Chief in March 2008, he already had ambitious plans for the service, including the development of a training program for Haitian journalists. In spite of being warned that funding would be an insurmountable problem, Ronald remained hopeful and outlined his proposal to the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince in March 2008. In his request, he promised that the program would elevate standards of journalism in the country. Ronald got the embassy backing he wanted and just a few months later, the first training session for Haitian journalists was held in Washington, D.C. This training program that started in June 2008 continues today, with sessions in both Washington, D.C. and Haiti.
2010 Earthquake Coverage
VOA Creole played a huge role in providing news and information to Haitians during the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that struck the country in January 2010. VOA Creole went from broadcasting one and half hours of programs per day to five hours per day. These broadcasts were crucial to Haitians, since several radio stations on the island had suffered severe earthquake damage and were unable to broadcast, including one of VOA’s leading affiliates. But there were no interruptions in Creole Service broadcasting and it was able to provide life-saving information to Haitians during a disastrous and heartbreaking time in their lives.
Stories of Interest
Haitians rely on VOA Creole for the latest news and information. The major Haiti-related story the service is covering now is the absence of legislative and local elections in the country. The Haitian Senate is already functioning without one-third of its members because of a lack of elections -- now two years overdue. If an election does not take place by the end of this year, the situation will get even more serious, as the terms of two-thirds of the members of the Senate and all of the members of the lower chamber of parliament will expire in January. Listeners also rely on the service for coverage of U.S. reaction to local and international stories, as well as news about Haitian communities in the United States. Reports about developments in these communities are a regular feature of VOA Creole’s programming.
VOA Creole's Plans for Haitian Heritage Month
Haitian heritage is celebrated annually in the United States during the month of May, and the Creole Service devotes a lot of programming during the month to the role of Haitians in American life. For example, a topic that is always included in the coverage is the contribution of Haitians in the fight for America’s independence during the Revolutionary War. From the founding of the United States right up to the present day, Haitians have been very much part of the American scene.