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Haitian Times: Bridging the Gap

NCM Profile

NCM, NCM Profile, Brahmani Houston Posted: Aug 02, 2005

Every year, more than 15,000 Haitian Americans come together to celebrate their culture at the annual Kreyolfest in New York. The festival is held by the Haitian Times, a newspaper whose motto is Bridging the Gap, and marks its role as a force in the community.
Garry Pierre-Pierre, editor and publisher of the Haitian Times, says the celebration plays two important roles. It is the largest Haitian festival in the country and it shows the power of the newspaper to communicate to and organize the community something business leaders, advertisers and policy makers all recognize.

In 1999, Pierre-Pierre left a successful career as a New York Times reporter to start the Haitian Times. Six years later, the weekly paper, with a circulation of 20,000, sends subscriptions to the mayors office, the governors office, the CIA and the Department of Defense. In fact, Pierre-Pierre estimates that 20 percent of the Haitian Times readership is non-Haitian.

As the only Haitian American paper published in English, the Haitian Times reaches an important market that its main competitors cannot: the younger generation. Pierre-Pierre says language has always been a dividing issue in Haiti, where the wealthier class reads and writes fluently in French and the poorer and working classes use Kreyol. Most young Haitians like Pierre-Pierre, who came to the United States at the age of eight, prefer English.

Publishing in English, he says, has allowed the paper to bridge age and class divisions. It set us apart from the two major competitors, he says. And the language was part of the mission, but really it was about the content.

After the 2000 census far underestimated the 500,000-strong Haitian American population, the Haitian Times ran a series of stories demanding to know why sixth generation Swedes were counted, but not second generation Haitians, explains Pierre-Pierre. The stories, he says, had an impact on the U.S. Census Bureau: They were quite responsive. They took out PSAs in the Haitian Times for an African American task force.

The Haitian Times continues to cover controversial issues affecting the Haitian community, but Pierre-Pierre no longer has time to write them himself. I can write beautiful columns, but what does it matter if we cant keep the paper going? he asks.

Pierre-Pierre says he spends most of his time editing and managing the business side of the newspaper, which is backed by 10 investors from the community who believe in his vision for the paper. They know its a superhuman effort to keep the paper going, he laughs.

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