The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) is working to set up “communication centers” across Puerto Rico to help get accurate information about both damage and relief efforts.
Since only one third of cell sites are now working and only 63% of residents have access to telecommunication services, there is uncertainty about how things are going in Puerto Rico. Many people living in the States have still not been able to reach family members. There is controversy about the death toll on the Island. Reports of the success of rescue efforts are inconsistent.
NAHJ is crowdsourcing their effort to bring telecommunications devices to areas across the Island. Knight Foundation will match the first $10,000.00 donated, and the effort has now brought in $8,945 of that total.
In addition to improving reporting on the post-hurricane position of Puerto Rico, the NAHJ initiative is intended to help people reach their families or get news about them. Celebrity Jennifer Lopez spent almost a week trying to reach her relatives on this Island. She also contributed $1 million to the relief effort. Many people are still searching for word on whether their family members are still alive.
NAHJ hopes their communications stations will allow local journalists to work with a coordinator from NAHJ who will connect with family reunification efforts which are already underway among news organizations. With a bucket brigade system, they believe they will be able to penetrate into areas that are still not in communication with San Juan.
Once the telecommunications system in Puerto Rico is restored, the phones and other hardware will be donated to a local journalism center. All Puerto Rican journalists and journalism students will also have free access to NAHJ membership for 18 months. NAHJ runs trainings, provides scholarships, and has job boards for Hispanic journalists. “NAHJ is committed to investing into re-empowerment of the journalists in Puerto Rico,” the organization says.