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#796: Haitians Go to Press... (fwd)
Haitians Go to Press ,English-language weekly hits newsstands
By ROBERTO SANTIAGO Daily News Staff Writer _____ October 27 1999
Somewhere near the stacks of the Daily News this morning in Flatbush,
Midwood and Crown Heights, Garry Pierre-Pierre's full-color dream can be
purchased for $1.Or 10 gourdes (32 cents) in Port-au-Prince. "It was
eight years ago that I dreamed about starting a national newspaper, in
English, for the Haitian community," publisher Pierre-Pierre said of the
debut of his full-color, weekly newspaper, The Haitian Times, an
entrepreneurial effort that became a reality today. And
Pierre-Pierre, who runs his new venture out of a tiny office on
Court St. in the downtown area, hopes The Haitian Times will
become a weekly must-read for thousands of Haitians in New York City,
Miami, Montreal and Port-au-Prince. He believes they have long wanted a
well-written, English-language publication that covers Haitian
lifestyles, arts and politics — both in Haiti and in the United States —
in an objective manner. "The major Haitian weeklies out there are
written in French, don't cover the vast range of Haitian issues and have
a political agenda," editor-in-chief Yves Colon said from his home
office near Miami. But in choosing to publish The Haitian Times in
English, Pierre-Pierre and Colon are making a political statement
themselves. In Haiti, language often delineates class distinctions: The
upper classes read French, and the lower classes speak Creole. But rich
and poor alike read and speak English. "English is the language that
equalizes Haitians in the United States and in Haiti," said Colon, who
already counts Brooklyn writer Edwidge Danticat, who wrote "Krik?
Krak!" and Fortune senior editor Joel Dreyfuss as contributing
writers. The all-Haitian effort is funded by Haitian investors, a
mixture of business owners, physicians, friends and white-collar
professionals. "Institutional investors shunned us," said
Pierre-Pierre who, along with Colon, has put his life savings into the
project. "The only non-Haitian investor is my father-in-law."
According to Pierre-Pierre, the weekly employs 15 staffers and has
offices in Brooklyn, Port-au-Prince and in Colon's home near Miami.
He estimated startup costs for the premiere issue were $250,000 and
weekly operating expenses will be $15,000. The weekly, which will be
distributed at newsstands, restaurants and stores in Port-au-Prince, and
in the Haitian communities of New York, Miami, Boston and Montreal,
already has 500 paid subscribers and a circulation of 20,000.
But in the world of print journalism, average paid circulation — the
total number of issues printed and paid for — can only get you so far.
To make it, newspapers must generate advertising revenue, too. Thus, the
unanswered question that haunts the two partners remains: Will
targeting an english-speaking, mostly female, Haitian readership, 25 to
40 years old, with a household income of over $30,000, be enough to
attract advertisers? Ken Smikle, president of Target Market News, a
Chicago-based research firm that monitors black consumers, seems to
think so. "Advertisers have always felt more comfortable with targeted,
English-language publications that attract a higher demographic,"
he said. "What's important for The Haitian Times is that it appeal to
that high-end Haitian demographic: the business leaders, the
power-brokers." And like many new entrepreneurs, Pierre-Pierre and Colon
have risked it all in the hope that their venture pays off.
Pierre-Pierre, 37, quit his job as a New York Times reporter, and
Colon, 47, took a leave of absence as an editor for the Miami
Herald. "You have to take a chance at going for your dream at some
point in your life," Pierre-Pierre said.