By: Mark Fitzgerald
Stars and Stripes began circulating in Haiti Saturday — undoubtedly the only American newspaper on the earthquake-devastated island.
“Stars and Stripes has not only a proud tradition but a mandate to be sure that we provide a newspaper wherever soldiers are,” Senior Managing Editor Howard Witt said in a telephone interview Friday. “The main places we go now obviously is Iraq and Afghanistan, but as soon as it was apparent there was going to be a massive deployment to Haiti, our distribution and circulation people were trying to figure out how to get on the island.”
It wasn’t easy.
After all, it’s been hard enough getting vital supplies to Haiti. “Obviously, food and water have a higher priority than newspapers,” said Witt. Stars and Stripes distribution managers “have been working ths since the second day of the disaster, and you can see it’s taken this long to work out the logistics.”
The 800 copies going to Haiti will be printed at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. “It works out well for them because we have an early afternoon deadline, so it’s not taking any press time away,” he said.
Sun-Sentinel circulation drivers will bring the copies to Homestead Air Reserve Base, where they will be flown to Haiti, said Lt. Col. Autum C. Whalen, Star and Stripes Pacific support commander. “That wil be our regular delivery draw,” she said.
Once the papers are at Homestead, they will be handed off to Homestead ARB flight operations personnel to get the the papers on the earliest flight possible scheduled to depart for Haiti, she added.
“Starting Tuesday, we will also deliver 200 copies to Pope Air Force Base and Fort Bragg in North Carolina to make them available to the personnel and family members of the units who have troops deployed to Haiti,” Whalen said.
A circulation manager will be in Haiti to oversee distribution. Copies in Haiti will be delivered at dining facilities, command centers and other common areas of the major units deployed to the island, Whalen said. That?s been the system the military newspaper has used in early stages of deployments, she noted.
Stars and Stripes circulates about 70,000 copies to troops in the Middle East.
Stars and Stripes did get a reporter into Haiti about four days after the earthquake struck. National Correspondent Megan McCloskey has been filing a steady stream of articles, blog postings and even Tweets as she follows units in the recovery effort, or visits the Navy ships sent to the island. “It’s an absolutely remarkable output when you think that’s she’s got to find power, get a connection,” Witt said.
“We’re going to try to stick with this story for as long as it takes,” he added. “It’s going to be a story for readers for a lot longer than other newspapers.”