Here's a nice little profile piece from the paper's ultra-local weekly "Crossroads" section.
It's a Local Boy
Makes Does Good story, about a young man from the area who is serving as a missionary with OMS International, helping to train local church leaders and working in the agency's local schools and its medical clinic. If it will help to keep the comments thread here from veering off into a discussion of the legitimacy of missions, then just think of him as working for an NGO to strengthen Haitian civil society.
My problem here is with the photos. Specifically, it's with the captions for those photos: The top photo here pictures two people, the bottom one pictures nine. But only two of these 11 people are identified by name.
The copy editors did their best to write around the missing information, and the paper's diligent online copy editor (ahem) tried to mitigate the problem by inserting "(right, …)" and "(center, …)" to clarify which person in each photo is the one named in the caption. That may not seem to matter much, since readers of the print edition, in which those parenthetical identifiers are absent, probably won't be confused as to whom the captions refer. Those readers have seen hundred of photos like this and they're accustomed to the American convention of only regarding white people from the first world as worthy of identification.
It's that convention — and not Matt and Stacy in particular — that I want to talk about here. We still see this all the time. The implication is clear: Here is a picture of a person and several non-persons or sub-persons. That's abominable.
I used to rent a room from a former World Vision executive who told me about a study that agency did.
World Vision is a large and impressively effective evangelical relief and development agency. A lot of very poor people in this world have access to food, water and medicine because of World Vision. They're good people.
World Vision sees it as their responsibility to use their resources as efficiently as possible, so they conducted a study to measure what sort of fundraising appeals would be most effective. What they learned was this: Americans are most likely to donate when the visual components of the fundraiser pictured a smiling, middle-aged white American male surrounded by smiling, dark-skinned poor children.
To their enormous credit, World Vision's response to this finding was to say, "OK then, what's the second-most effective visual component for our appeals?" They refused to try to treat the disease by reinforcing one of its causes.
You can't empower poor people by portraying them as powerless sub-people.