“But surely at least we who work in journalism can do a public service by treating humanitarianism the same way we treat other powerful public interests that shape our world. Too often the press represents humanitarians with unquestioning admiration. Why not seek to keep them honest? Why should our coverage of them look so much like their own self-representation in fund-raising appeals?” -Philip Gourevitch, “The Moral Hazards of Humanitarian Aid: What is to be Done?“
Philip Gourevitch has an interesting piece on the New Yorker News Desk blog that ends with difficult questions about how journalists cover, or even work directly for, humanitarian aid agencies. I’ve written in the past about the Nieman Journalism Lab’s efforts to discover exactly how journalists and NGOs navigate the murky waters between journalism and propaganda and PR and fundraising and reportage. It’s a question that needs more and more examination as NGOs, charities, and humanitarian agencies become the primary supporters of visual journalism. I’ve got no answers, not least because I’ve done so little work with NGOs. Perhaps a few of you out there can share your perspectives here.