Voice of America’s Creole Service has been honored with a 2011 David Burke Distinguished Journalism Award, in recognition of the service’s unmatched coverage of the devastating earthquake in Haiti last year.
The award, presented Friday to Creole Service Chief Ronald Cesar during a public meeting of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, cited the service’s rapid expansion of its broadcast hours immediately following the deadly earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010.
The award citation, read by BBG Governor Dana Perino, noted the “lasting, meaningful impact” the Creole Service had on its audience, and the service’s dedication to the “free exchange of ideas.”
VOA’s Creole service, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, immediately stepped up its broadcasts to more than 10 hours a day following the earthquake in Haiti and became a lifeline for victims. Many listeners tuned in to the VOA broadcasts for information about missing loved ones, the location of humanitarian aid, and medical advice. The service set up a special hotline for relatives of the missing and created Facebook and Twitter accounts that helped many people locate missing family members.
At Friday’s ceremony, Governor Perino cited the impact of one Creole Service call-in show that included an interview from a camp for the displaced. Shortly after the caller complained about a lack of food at the camp, a relief truck came to the deliver needed supplies.
The Director of VOA’s Latin America Division, Alberto Mascaro, said the award was a result of hard work and professionalism that continues to this day. He called the award a reflection of the “dedication of the staff, not only to the Creole Service, but to the country they all come from.”
The David Burke Distinguished Journalism Awards are named after the first Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the parent agency of VOA. The award recognizes “courage, integrity and originality in reporting” within the BBG broadcast entities. Other winners for 2011 include Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Belarus Service, Radio Marti’s Jose Luis Ramos, Radio Free Asia’s Cantonese Service, and Middle East Broadcasting Network’s Alhurra reporters Tarek El Shamy, Akram Khuzam, Muslim Khadil, and Nayef Mashakba.