The Role of Media in Humanitarian Crises: Lessons Learned from the Earthquake in Haiti

The earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, crippled broadcast and print media outlets, leaving Haitians without critical information about the humanitarian response. The crisis exacerbated existing challenges to free and independent media, such as inadequate salaries for reporters and a brain drain of trained professional journalists. With much of their infrastructure destroyed, community radio stations, TV networks, and newspapers scrambled to get back to business. Scant resources within the media sector are likely to continue to plague the nation, potentially leading to citizen disengagement. One positive development is the use of social media—Twitter, Facebook, and cellphones—which have emerged as vital tools for both directly disseminating news about Haiti and providing traditional media with current information. New media such as these were not available in previous catastrophic earthquakes such as in Pakistan in 2005. As Haiti shifts from disaster to recovery, how can international agencies incorporate media development in plans for reconstruction? What are the major obstacles facing Haitian journalists and media organizations as they prepare to rebuild the media sector? What lessons have been learned?

This panel will follow a May 24 conference hosted by the Knight Foundation and Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities (CDAC), an interagency working group, which will bring together response teams, local Haitian journalists and international media representatives to discuss digital and traditional media and lessons learned from the earthquake in Haiti. Panelists at CIMA’s event will have also participated in the Miami meeting, which will help inform the discussion.


Mark Frohardt
Internews Network

Caitlin Klevorick
U.S. Department of State*

Patrick Meier

Ivan Sigal
Executive Director, Global Voices

Moderated by

Fabiola Cordova
National Endowment for Democracy

About the Participants

Mark Frohardt joined Internews Network in 1999 and serves as vice president for Africa, Health, and Humanitarian Media. Frohardt has played an active role in Internews’ Haiti relief efforts, deploying the first media assistance response team, initiating the assessment of information needs of the affected Haitian population and of the state of local media, and establishing relationships with the humanitarian community to assist in the coordination of communications. He also sent an Internews consultant to Chile after the earthquake and tsunami in February to assess local media and initiate the use of Frontline SMS and Ushahidi with radio stations in the worst-affected areas. Frohardt is a founding member of the CDAC. He has nearly twenty years experience in humanitarian relief.

Caitlin Klevorick is special assistant to Cheryl Mills, Counselor and Chief of Staff to Secretary Clinton. Klevorick has worked on a range of issues at the State Department, including increasing transparency and public access to information on foreign assistance spending and programs. Currently, she is working to bridge humanitarian efforts and long-term development goals in Haiti through innovative projects such as the Text Haiti campaign. Previously, Klevorick was vice president of a strategic communications firm specializing in crisis situations. She also worked for former President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Foundation, and the Clinton Global Initiative on projects focused on communications and research. Klevorick has worked on several political campaigns for national and state-wide offices.

Patrick Meier is director of Crisis Mapping at Ushahidi and co-founder of the International Network of Crisis Mappers. He launched Ushahidi projects in Haiti and Chile immediately following the earthquakes. Meier has consulted for numerous international organizations on crisis mapping and early warning projects in countries ranging from the Sudan to East Timor. He was previously the co-director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s Program on Crisis Mapping and Early Warning. Meier is a PhD candidate at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University where his dissertation focuses on the role of technology in civil resistance against repressive regimes. He blogs at

Ivan Sigal is writing a report, supported by Internews Network, on the convergence of social and traditional media in response to a natural disaster, using Haiti as a case study. Sigal is executive director of Global Voices, a nonprofit online global citizens’ media initiative. Previously, he was a senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, where his research focused on how new technologies and increasing access to information affect conflict-prone areas. Sigal spent more than ten years working in media development in the former Soviet Union and Asia, supporting and training journalists and working on media productions. During that time, he worked for Internews Network as regional director for Asia, Central Asia, and Afghanistan. Sigal has designed and implemented numerous media assistance projects, among them helping to create more than 30 Afghan radio stations; an initiative to provide humanitarian information to victims of the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan-administered Kashmir; and a humanitarian assistance information radio program in Sri Lanka following the tsunami in 2004.