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Breaking the News Against All Odds

AP reporter, Medal for Courage in Journalism winner to speak at Medill

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September 8, 2011 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The reporter who provided the world with the first news of last year’s powerful and devastating Haitian earthquake will deliver the first Crain Lecture of the new academic year Thursday, Sept. 22, at Northwestern University.

Jonathan Katz -- winner of the 2010 Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism -- will speak at Medill about reporting the earthquake at 5 p.m. at the McCormick Tribune Center Forum, 1870 Campus Drive, on the University’s Evanston campus. Free and open to the public, the event will be followed by a reception.

When the most powerful earthquake in 200 years hit Haiti in January 2010, Associated Press correspondent Katz ran outside his collapsing house and begged anyone he saw -- in English, Creole, Spanish and French -- for a cell phone to report the news. As a result, the Associated Press and the U.S. Geological Survey broke the story simultaneously.

John Daniszewski, the AP senior managing editor for the international section and photos who nominated Katz for the Medill award, wrote, “Food, water, electricity and fuel were scarce, and he stepped around bodies in the streets. Without a house, Katz slept on the bricks outside, where he woke up several times a night as aftershocks pounded his head against the ground. Four of his friends died in the quake.”

The only foreign correspondent working in Haiti when the devastating earthquake hit, Katz remained in Haiti to determine and report why recovery efforts were ineffective and slow.

His in-depth stories held Haitian and international officials responsible for actions that slowed the recovery process, and contributed to the resignation of the head of the government relocation commission.

The United Nations originally denied Katz’s reports that it was horrid conditions at a U.N. camp that led to a deadly cholera outbreak throughout Haiti. However, after Katz obtained a report from a French scientist confirming the outbreak’s origins, the U.N. stopped its denials and appointed an independent panel to examine the issue.

Katz earned a bachelor’s degree in history and American studies from Northwestern University in 2002 and a master’s degree in journalism from Medill in 2004. For more about his earthquake reporting, read the Fall 2011 Medill Magazine.  

Medill’s Crain Lecture Series regularly brings journalists, newsmakers and others to Northwestern’s Evanston campus to discuss the news business and current events. For more on this or other Crain Lectures and discussions, call Catherine Rabenstine at (847) 491-5593 or visit www.medill.northwestern.edu.