Journalists and Humanitarian NGO's

Avril, Hilaire
September 2004
Nieman Reports;Fall2004, Vol. 58 Issue 3, p24
This article examines aspects of reporting relationships among journalists and aid workers. What can journalists expect of aid workers as sources? Most aid workers find a source of energy in their healthy indignation at the world surrounding them. This is often combined with a strong antiestablishment stance. Humanitarian workers have a growing skepticism towards journalists, especially those who parachute in to do one story and then leave. These aid workers often perceive journalists as being obsessed with finding good angles rather than reporting in-depth stories. This is because a few journalists who specialize in covering crises can be ruthless in focusing only on the shortcomings of some aid operations. Most aid workers will open up if you take time to display empathy and at least minimal awareness of what their tasks entail. Aid workers should also educate journalists about the boundaries they are obliged not to cross. For example, if a non-governmental organization is portrayed in media coverage as taking sides in a conflict, such coverage might put the field personnel in danger. It is important for relief workers to be willing to explain the dilemmas they face every day. Their job is often to make the least worst decision.


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