by: Rob Tornoe
In January 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti and devastated its capital, Port-au-Prince, killing more than 200,000 people and destroying much of the country’s infrastructure, including the Presidential Palace and Parliament. Suddenly, the impoverished country, which ranks number five on the Failed State index, became the darling of the news media, which flocked to its dilapidated shores to cover the next disaster story. But it didn’t take long for them to get bored, pack up, and leave, forgetting the human suffering and poverty left behind.
Leave it to the cartoonists to save the day.
The editorial team of Cartoon Movement — American cartoonist Matt Bors (syndicated by Universal Uclick) and Dutch cartoonist Tjeerd Royaards — joined by video journalist Caroline Bins, traveled to Haiti on a monthlong trip to explore the problems facing the country, told from the point of view of the Haitian people.
The method they’ve chosen is comics journalism, an emerging form of reporting using cartoons as the primary medium to tell the story. They found a Haitian cartoonist and paired him with a couple of Haitian journalists and aim to produce 75 pages of comics journalism, offering an inside perspective on the multitude of problems facing Haiti.
“In comics journalism you have the ability to immerse your reader in your story in a way you can’t in prose, shift between imagery and text, and display graphics and human stories in a way that broadcast news doesn’t accommodate,” said Bors, editor of Cartoon Movement. “Comics journalism is a great way to tell stories in an era where websites have become seas of text with nearly identical content.”
Both Bors and Royaards knew from the start that in order to get to the heart of the issues in Haiti, they would need to focus on Haiti’s reconstruction from the point of view of the Haitian people, which led to the decision to hire Haitian journalists to produce the stories.
“The problems here are complex and trace back long before the quake,” Bors said. “We knew that doing anything comprehensive on Haiti would require people who have been here their whole lives and who are trained in journalism.”
The Cartoon Movement team settled on Chevelin Pierre, one of the few Haitian cartoonists they came across who was well versed in sequential comics. He draws full-page comics for a free paper called Chimen Lakay, the most well-read publication in Haiti, with a circulation of 500,000 copies. Unlike the country’s two main newspapers, Le Nouvelliste and Le Matin, Chimen Lakay is published in Creole instead of French. Although French is the country’s official language, most Haitians can’t read it, and Creole is more widely understood across class lines.
For Bors, the interest of the project is to bring attention to the real needs of Haiti, moving it past a cause célèbre for the famous and a sporadic point of interest for the international media.
“We wanted to come and tell the story of what it’s like rebuilding when most of the cameras have left and the aid money is dwindling,” Bors said. “The daily grind of the news cycle, problems in Washington, Arab Spring, and other issues have wiped Haiti from the headlines. I’d like to keep the focus on the persistent problems here longer than it’s fashionable and popular.”
For the complete article, click here: http://www.editorandpublisher.com/Features/Article/Cartoon-Movement-Puts-the-Spotlight-Back-on-Haiti