Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010

To Our Readers: Healing Haiti

On Jay Newton-Small's second day in the ruins of Port-au-Prince, a young Haitian woman watched her as she interviewed survivors of the earthquake. "We need help," the woman said, "not that," and then pointed to Jay's notebook and pen. There's no question that the Haitians need help, but they also need that — the focus of the world's press on their plight. Every reporter knows that internal tug-of-war that Jay felt, that feeling of being caught between being an observer and an actor in the drama you're covering. But in the case of the tragedy of Haiti, there is a positive correlation between what the media are doing and the desire to help: when we shine a light on a natural disaster like the earthquake in Haiti, we not only stimulate the interest of millions of people in helping, but we also make the case for fixing what is broken.

To that end, we are publishing Earthquake Haiti: Tragedy and Hope, a book that features our extraordinary photography of the destruction in Port-au-Prince along with the memorable words of Nancy Gibbs, Bryan Walsh and contributor Amy Wilentz — whose book The Rainy Season is a moving and poetic exploration of Haiti — and a short essay by President Bill Clinton. We will be donating $75,000 from the book's profits to Haitian relief, including $25,000 to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. We are shining a light and helping at the same time. Time Warner is matching employee contributions up to $500,000 to organizations such as the American Red Cross, International Rescue Committee, CARE and UNICEF.

Our photographers and reporters have done an exceptional job of documenting this tragedy in the magazine and on And they have all been deeply affected by it. Reporter Ioan Grillo has covered the lynching of policemen in Mexico and the shooting of protesters by Honduran soldiers. "But nothing prepared me for this," he says. "It is ethically challenging being a journalist amid so much pain and suffering. 'All I can do is get the word out,' you say." And he has. Miami bureau chief Tim Padgett rode in and out of Port-au-Prince in relief helicopters, and he was struck by the Haitians' relative calm. "It was encouraging not to see the level of dangerous mayhem that's marked all the other disasters I've witnessed in this beleaguered country," he says. Padgett covered Hurricane Katrina, "but seeing Port-au-Prince reduced to a gravel pit was even more shocking than seeing New Orleans under water." Newton-Small watched a looter who'd been shot by police die — but she also saw neighbors banding together to guard each other's few possessions. "I've seen the best and the worst of humanity," Newton-Small says, and notes she is watching to see the "best of humanity struggle to win the fight for Haiti's soul."

Israeli-born photographer Shaul Schwarz has covered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but he found Haiti unique. He flew to the Dominican Republic the day after the quake and was in Port-au-Prince that same night. Schwarz, who first covered Haiti in 2004, finds the country incredibly vibrant and has struggled with the devastation. "I don't wish this on anyone," he says. Photographer Timothy Fadek has worked in more than 25 countries and has covered wars in Iraq, Lebanon and Kosovo. He too arrived in Port-au-Prince the day after the quake, and he found the Haitian people to be resolute. But then he thought of Katrina. "Look at how many years it's taken to help people there, and multiply that by 100."

Attention must be paid, and when it is, help follows. We are not a charitable organization; we're a journalistic one. But we also do not stand outside the problems we cover.

Read more in the new book TIME Earthquake Haiti: Tragedy and Hope and support TIME Haitian relief efforts