Journalists who go abroad to bring us stories from the rest of the world offer us a great service. From the comfort of our homes or offices, we can join them as they endure the extremes of climate, squallor of poverty or the tragedy of violence. (Unless, of course, they are travel writers on assignment to Tahiti. The yin and yang of the trade, I suppose...)
As a recent story in the Christian Science Monitor points out (which I first came across on Harvard's World Health News) many of these journalists are finding it difficult to simply observe difficult situations, and not do anything about it. Their desire to help, however, sometimes conflicts with their goal to remain objective for the story.
The article covers the spectrum of opinion on the subject, from quoting journalists who say they never get involved to those who can't help not being involved. Personally, I don't think it hurts the story to help. At the same time, one has to know how to help.
Throwing money around in the middle of the street in a poor neighborhood isn't the answer, but refusing to buy someone a meal who you know is malnourished and hungry seems a little harsh. In Islam, as in other religious traditions, feeding the hungry is a great act of worship. Refusing small kindnesses to others only hardens one's own heart--one goes from being an objective observer to a callous one.
As Kelly McBride, an ethics group leader at The Poynter Institute, says, "I don't think you have to separate being human from being a reporter."