A series of multimedia courses in Haiti for aspiring community journalists from 2010 till 2013 has been Turtle Tree’s most important project. The mission was then, and still is, to help disenfranchised communities to fight poverty by having access to information. The vision – the implementation of this mission – was educating young Haitians in multimedia, so they could give citizens insights in the process of reconstruction of their country.
Turtle Tree intended to transfer the film school Haiti Reporters from its inception to a local organization and Haitian management. At this time of writing, spring 2014, it is doubtful that a Haitian partner organization has the know-how and resources to continue the film school under the auspices of a Haitian institution.
In addition to following full-time media courses and seminars, students – and many graduates – were involved in actual production as well. As a production center, Haiti Reporters developed a current affairs program – Metro Mag – for local television and worked shoulder to shoulder with the powerful activist organization GARR (under the leadership of Colette Lespinasse) who does advocacy for Haitians in the DR. But the assignments awarded to Haiti Reporters were not enough to become sustainable. Local media, used to sell advertising with pirated foreign programs, don’t want to pay as of yet for original productions. Local grassroots organizations are in general not ready to use multimedia in order to communicate their goals. As a result, Turtle Tree is at a crossroads where it has to determine how to use its substantial experiences in Haiti in order to continue reinforcing community journalism. A new direction for Haiti Reporters is under discussion.
A three-pronged approach:
A. The full-time courses at Haiti Reporters, organized in collaboration with several foreign staff members who all gave a different input, will be systematised and re-organized. This practical curriculum, divided in separate modules, will be published on the internet in three languages: Creole, English and Spanish. The courses will be made available to individual and institutional users for free.
B. Turtle Tree will develop a menu of multimedia workshops of various lengths on different aspects of producing and will offer these workshops to partners in and outside Haiti. A first partner in this is PEP in California, the Project Education of Prisoners, that provides training to inmates so they can rehabilitate themselves and find a place in society.
C. Turtle Tree will set up a “Media Oracle” in collaboration with a number of media professionals and academics. The purpose of the oracle is to provide answers and solutions, or at least a forum for activists and community journalists who work in environments where a professional network and guidance is not available. The Media Oracle will cover technical aspects as well as ethical aspects of production. Question about financing and distribution of multimedia reports will be a mainstay of this website.
Turtle Tree wants to have these three projects up and running in the year 2014 in order to continue its support to community journalism — in Haiti and elsewhere.