One question that many readers have asked, and that none of the authors under review really answers, is: What is to be done? I don’t pretend to have answers for the humanitarians. 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? Why should we (as many photojournalists and print reporters do) work for humanitarian agencies between journalism jobs, helping them with their official reports and institutional appeals, in a way that we would never consider doing for corporations, political parties, or government agencies? Why should we not regard them as interested parties in the public realms in which they operate, as giant bureaucracies, as public trusts, with long records of getting it wrong with catastrophic consequences, as well as getting it right?
— Philip Gourevitch responds to criticism of his New Yorker article examining “the moral hazards of humanitarian aid.”
He mentions This American Life’s excellent show on relief aid in Haiti. I would also point you to listen to Krista’s interview with Binyavanga Wainaina for a deeper look at the ethics of aid in Kenya.