Aid Workers vs. Journalists?

UPDATE: I mistakenly assumed the commenter name "ansel" was a pseudonym, so my comments on anonymity in the final paragraph may not be as applicable. Updates in brackets. Interesting debate going on at Tales From the Hood: First, J (the anonymous aid worker blogger behind Tales), wrote "Dear Journalists: What to look for in aid programs," which includes suggestions like "Understand that you cannot evaluate a project, program or organization during one-day visit....Ask about learning.... Ask about outcomes....Use logic... Understand ambiguity...[and] Understand that things are almost never the way they seem." The summary sounds pretty basic, but the details aren't necessarily as simple.

Which prompted a lengthy comment from someone named ansel [Ansel Herz of MediaHacker]: "Dear aid groups, Do not invite us on one-day tours of your programs and expect them to be useful to us in any way.... We need to be able to come out to where you’re working unannounced and talk with you – your people in the field....Do not send out press releases over and over simply listing off the sheer numbers of stuff you’ve distributed or have stocked in warehouses as if it indicates how much you’ve accomplished. Quality of life is not measured by those (nearly impossible to verify independently) numbers." Etc.

J responded at length with a follow-up post (that probably stand alone if you're only going to read one link). There are several points of agreement -- on NGOs needing to be more open, for example -- but the main disagreement is over "supply and demand" of lousy, feel-good information. Do NGOs give it to journalists because the journalists demand it, or do journalists take it from NGOs because it's all they can get? (I know, a bit simplified -- so check out the links.)

Of course, some of the debate  was prompted by J and [Ansel]'s tone, which is unfortunate. While I understand the necessity of anonymous blogging, I think this debate is one where the tones would have been slightly different -- and more productive -- had both writers been commenting under their own names. Still, seeing the [partially] anonymous back-and-forth gives you an idea of the animus that can exist between the different actors.