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7482: Slavin on Jean Dominique (fwd)
I've been to reluctant to contribute a potentially critical posting about the
late Jean Dominique, but as he was such a muckraker, I think he would relish
another fight. I also believe that present and future scholars, writers, and
Lord, even journalists will use the Corbett list as a research tool, and that
the more information that is posted, the better.
Port-au-Prince was galvanized by the office infighting that erupted at Radio
Haiti-Inter during the early days of Aristide 1. I hope others on the list
will remind me of the dates when Haiti-Inter reporters, who were held in the
highest regard by many listeners (viewed as heroic figures in the heady
early days of the majority rule movement of post 7 Feb 86, and Mr.
Dominique's dramatic return from exile) basically told Mr. Dominique to take
this job and shove it over a pay dispute. And from my recollection, Mr.
Dominique came across as an employer who reneged on a commitment to share the
wealth with his reporters. One way that Haitian radio journalists ––
especially ones who have their own shows –– get paid is that they get a cut
of the advertising spots that they bring to the station. And I think in this
fight, the reporters claimed Mr. Dominique promised to share more advertising
revenue with them, but did not.
No matter where you were in the city, radios were cranked up to full volume
to get the latest statements in the job action. And people were really
torn-up about the fight -- about the turmoil at the station, the news
readers, the reporters, and of course, Mr. Dominique. It's all people talked
about. This station had a remarkable connection with its audience -- a
connection that is hard to describe. It's well known that Haitians at home
and abroad passed the hat to rebuild the station after Mr. Dominique returned
from exile after Baby Doc was toppled. But the connection was much, much more
than for those of us who cut checks to NPR and PBS -- it was almost as if the
station was a beloved church and the parishioners were heart broken over a
dispute between the bishop and the priests.
I don't remember any other incident during Aristide 1 that had the "street
talk" of this dispute –– but I wasn't in the country for the Lafontant trial
or the 30 Sept coup -- because of my reporter's knack for being in the wrong
place at the right time.
I think the Haiti-Inter reporters wound up quitting -- and some went back to
the station later.
A more arcane footnote in Mr. Dominique's career was the history of the
founding of Radio Haiti back in the 1970s (or so). It's my understanding that
Mr. Dominique gained control of the station in a "corporate struggle" with
the Widmaier family. The venerable Herb Widmaier went on to found venerable
Radio Metropole, much to the delight of Haiti's jazz aficionados.
On the posting about "who is Canute James" who filed a brief from Georgetown
for the Financial Times about the recent protests in PauP. I've only shaken
James' hand once, after he won an award from the Columbia School of
Journalism, but he is a legendary reporter whose spent his career covering
the Caribbean for the FT. He's Jamaican. And I can only surmise he was in
Guyana on business when his editors asked him to write a brief about the
Haiti news. A common practice, especially since James has covered the country
and region for decades. And if you question why he referred to private sector
sources, maybe you should ask yourself who...reads the Financial Times?