When the Associated Press sent correspondent Jonathan Katz to Haiti two years ago, it was because of a promotion. The 29-year-old from Louisville, Ky. learned the local Creole language and became the only full-time U.S. journalist based in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. He is now homeless following Tuesday's earthquake.In a video shot for the news service, Katz showed the "AP house," the wire service's office building in the mountains overlooking Port-au-Prince where he had a living space upstairs lying in ruins. "It was a great place to live until about 4 o'clock Tuesday," the reporter said matter-of-factly. "This was my home."
Borrowed A BlackBerry To Report The News
He pointed out that he borrowed a BlackBerry from someone at a nearby hotel to report the news of the quake, which officials say has left at least 50,000 dead, to AP editors in Puerto Rico.
Like many people in the troubled Caribbean nation today, Katz is worried that his home may no longer be structurally sound. Before his posting in Haiti, he reported for the AP from Jerusalem and the Dominican Republic. He has also covered the U.S. Congress and the Pentagon. His father David told DailyFinance that his overcame their misgivings about Jonathan being in such a poor and potentially dangerous place as Haiti.
"As parents, we knew this is what he wanted to do," says David Katz, a pediatrician. "We knew what we were getting into."
A Small Media Army Sets Up Camp
Katz, who had the Haiti beat largely to himself thanks to newsroom cutbacks in international coverage, is no longer alone.
A small media Army has descended upon Haiti in the days following the tragedy. Some of the biggest names in news, including Diane Sawyer of ABC, NBC's Brian Williams, CNN's Anderson Cooper and Katie Couric of CBS are there. World Vision, which probably runs the biggest relief operation in Haiti, says the media are staying out of the way of the relief operations, according to spokeswoman Rachel Wolff.
One of the biggest challenges reporters face is figuring out where to stay. Haiti had a limited number of hotel rooms even before the quake, and many of them are no longer safe.
Extraordinary Measures To Get To Haiti
"I'm at a hotel here," said NPR's Carrie Kahn during a recent broadcast of "Morning Edition." "This hotel has been damaged itself. The roof is collapsed and two of the stories are pancaked. It's sort of in a V shape in the middle of the hotel."
Reporters have had to take extraordinary measures to get to Haiti. Cooper flew to Santo Domingo in the neighboring Dominican Republic and hitched a ride on a relief helicopter, according to the Washington Post. "Today show anchor Ann Curry slept on a baggage cart at the Port-au-Prince airport Wednesday while NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams and Today weatherman Al Roker shared a tent," the paper says.
Of course, the inconvenience of the media pales in comparison to the suffering of the Haitian people, a point Katz himself eloquently noted.
"The AP house, a footnote in the devastation, is an uninhabitable mess on the verge of collapse," he wrote. "An entire city is screaming for help."
AP's Correspondent No Longer Has Haiti Beat to Himself