- Kirsten Ballard
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This National Newspaper Week, I’d like to call attention to publishers in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The utter devastation these islands faced from Hurricanes Irma and Maria is harrowing.
The local newsrooms responded with bravery—staying through the storms, helping their communities and continuing to shed a light on these ravaged islands when the world wasn’t watching. FiveThirtyEight reported that Puerto Rico and Hurricane Maria got relatively little media coverage compared to Texas and Hurricane Harvey. These papers demand attention and aid for their islands.
On Tuesday, President Trump visited the territory. In anticipation of his visit, El Nuevo Dia ran an editorial called ‘United We Stand’ about the devastating storm and the sense of community that has shone through in the aftermath.
“On September 20th the world we once knew disappeared, and we woke up to the ravages of María’s destruction,” writes María Luisa Ferré Rangel, Publisher GFR Media. She continues, stating, “When you go through this kind of devastation and come out alive, you realize there is a chance to start again and learn from your mistakes and rebuild a new self; but divided we can’t and alone we can’t either.”
The paper’s headlines are full of imperative information to readers: when aid is coming, when the airport opens, curfew information and stories of hope.
Puerto Rico and the VI need our help. We cannot forget the communities or papers that serve them.
Archie Nahigian, President of the Virgin Island Daily News, wrote in to the Alliance about weathering the storms. He talked about tiles falling from the ceiling and groans of the roof. His staff waited to see if the building would hold, but their work continued. Nahigian himself stayed overnight at The Daily News for several days.
The Daily News lost a staffer from the Circulation Department during Hurricane Maria. He had been with the paper 15 years. The 65 year old died at home.
The Daily News published every day leading up to, during and following the storm, except September 7, the day after Hurricane Irma. The internet in the office comes and goes, and the office phones are out. The lack of mail delivery impedes the delivery of payments from advertisers and subscribers, placing stress on operating cash flow.
Still, when disaster strikes, journalists stand strong—reporting and bringing attention to the crises. For 87 years, The Daily News has served the people of the Virgin Islands. They will not stop now.
Nahigian is not without hope. He related an anecdote of a reporter dropping off 100 papers at each of the two shelters after the storm. One day, the reporter gave a paper to a homeless man, watched him read it and then sell it to a FEMA representative.
“That is the kind of entrepreneurial behavior that will accelerate our recovery!” Nahigian wrote.
Our thoughts are with these newsrooms as they rebuild and recover. To help, consider making a donation to the Virgin Islands Daily News Community Fund at the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI). All of its administrative costs are paid for by regular donors, so every dollar contributed to this fund will go directly to meet a need. Visit www.cfvi.net to make a donation. For aid in Puerto Rico, we recommend directing donations to United for Puerto Rico.