Jacqueline Charles, Caribbean and Haiti correspondent for the Miami Herald, has developed a reputation for always being on top of the big stories in Haiti over the past twenty years.
Over the last year, Charles distinguished herself by being able to enter the country after the killing of the Haiti president, Jovenel Moïse, July 7, 2021. In her coverage, she has worked on investigations since then about what happened. Charles has over 130,000 Twitter followers.
She has consistently distinguished herself by delivering solid and engaging journalism, so it comes as no surprise that she was named 2022 Journalist of the Year at the National Association of Black Journalists’ Salute to Excellence Awards Banquet on August 6.
The ceremony took place during the NABJ and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Convention and Career Fair in Las Vegas.
Charles, who travels to Haiti often, also reported on the devastation in Haiti from earthquake which earned her the NABJ Journalist of the Year in 2011 and enabled her to be a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Charles was born in the Turks and Caico islands and raised by a Haitian mother and a Cuban stepfather. She moved to Miami with her family when she was seven.
Just prior to the convention, Charles rode along with police to report about gang-controlled areas in Haiti. In her acceptance speech, she mentioned that her Haitian coverage has included being under fire while seeking information about the beleaguered country.’
Former President Bill Clinton, in a taped presentation at the banquet, acknowledged Charles’ role in the coverage of Haiti as akin to being Haiti’s ambassador to the world.
Under the administration of Joe Biden, many people have raised questions about his policy toward the boatloads with as many as 300 Haitian arriving in South Florida. An estimated 200,000 Haitians have been deported over the last seven months.
At a session during the NABJ-NAHJ convention, Charles asked the White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who spoke in-person, “Why is the U.S. still deporting people to a country where upwards of 500 people were killed or injured last month by two warring gangs?”
Charles suggested that many people believe that President Biden just doesn’t care.
Jean-Pierre, who has family from Haiti and considers herself Haitian-American, appeared to be shaken momentarily. She said that it is a tough question that is both personal and complicated — personal by family ties and complicated because the administration has no quick fix. She said she believes that the president does care. She cited her experience of knowing President Biden for more than 10 years beginning with the administration of President Barack Obama when Biden was vice president.
Marcom Weekly asked Charles about the coverage of Haitian migrants versus Ukraine refugees. “I’m blessed to be working at the Miami Herald, which considers Haiti a local story, ” she said. “We’re in the news business. People go where the story is. ‘If it bleeds, it leads.’ Media houses don’t have the kind of money to do foreign corresponding. I’m not going to knock anyone else’s coverage.”
In her acceptance speech at the awards banquet, Charles advised young journalists to “find your passions, outline your goals and go for it.”
Her talent caught the eye of NABJ’s first president, Chuck Stone of the Philadelphia Daily News, early in her career. She said he told her to tell stories of people like you and me.
“I just want young journalists growing up not to envision winning the awards or what’s next—just envision doing good work and having good impact,” Charles said.
NABJ Executive Director Drew Berry said members showed up in large numbers and responded robustly to offerings across media sectors.
According to Berry, more than 4,500 NABJ and NAHJ members attended the convention. He said the response was overwhelmingly positive, and not just among convention-goers.
“Partners were blown away by the numbers and quality of candidates for jobs, plus journalists were getting hired,” Berry said. “The hottest profession needed was TV producers.”
Attendees were offered about a dozen networking receptions.
The Sports Task Force scholarship fundraising party was the premiere social event of the convention. It sold out across the board, according to Berry.
Berry noted that the cost of Vegas has changed considerably over the past 15 years.
He was particularly happy that the vast majority of members obeyed the mandate to wear masks inside the convention area.
“The few who had to be reminded to pull up or put on a mask quickly complied for the most part without complaint,” Berry said. “We would do it all over again. It was the prudent thing to do.”
NABJ President Dorothy Tucker said she was especially proud of all the journalists and their work over the year and looked forward to seeing everyone in Birmingham in 2023 when NABJ meets there.
The New York Times’ former executive editor Dean Baquet added the special honor of 2022 NABJ Chuck Stone Lifetime Achievement Award to his long list of accolades as a journalist, which include a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting at the Chicago Tribune. Beyond being the first Black journalist to lead The NY Times, he had also been executive editor of the Los Angeles Times.
Cheryl Smith was inducted into the NABJ Hall of Fame. A strong leader of the Black press, Smith has served at several levels of NABJ, including, chapter president, regional director and board secretary. A Florida A&M University Rattler, and member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; Smith has championed the Urban Journalism Workshops as a beacon for future journalists, not only in her local chapter, Dallas-Ft. Worth Association of Black Journalists, but also in chapters all across the nation. Most recently Smith, the publisher of iMessenger news source, has collaborated with mainstream news outlets to provide a broader range of coverage of the Black community in those publications.
Jerry McCormick, a longtime copyeditor and recent television producer, received the NABJ President’s Award from Dorothy Tucker for his idea to link NABJ with HBCUs. The inaugural NABJ HBCYou Training Day was held in February 2022. The NABJ HBCYou Training Day was the first major project of the NABJ HBCU Initiative, which asked alumni of HBCUs to give back by establishing or reinvigorating chapters of NABJ at HBCUs across the country. The NABJ HBCYou Training Day expanded on that goal by offering a daylong, virtual event, where students could connect with media professionals to get training in journalism and communications.
NAHJ inducted several premiere journalists into its Hall of Fame, including visual journalist Steve Gonzales posthumously. This year’s NAHJ President’s Award was presented to John Quiñones, ABC News correspondent and host of What Would You Do?; the NAHJ ‘Sí Se Puede’ Award winner to a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author and media executive, Maria Hinojosa; and the NAHJ ‘¡Dale!’ Award honoree is a Los Angeles Times’ opinion columnist and author, Jean Guerrero.