This research-creation PhD thesis contributes to recent debates about what journalism could (or should) be in today’s fast-changing media landscape by focusing on graphic reportage, a journalistic approach that relies on the drawn medium of comics. In order to assess how working in this drawn form might affect the practices that journalists use in their work, I reflect critically on my process of making Picturing Aid in Haiti, a work of graphic reportage about humanitarian interventions in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. I carried out fieldwork for this graphic project in 2013 in Port-au-Prince, where I recorded a series of interviews with Haitians who lived for more than three years in a displacement camp. During this fieldwork, I also interviewed humanitarian workers and local landowners, and I documented what I observed through notes, photographs and sketches. Based on this research, I wrote the script for a graphic book, and I began illustrating and designing sample panels and pages of graphic reportage. In my research for this graphic project, I consciously sought out information and points of view often neglected in international news coverage of humanitarian interventions in places like Haiti. Reflecting on the interviews and observational research I carried out in Haiti, I show in this thesis that the approach of graphic reportage facilitated this process. Discussing specific excerpts from my graphic project, which serves as a platform for the words, stories and images that different interviewees contributed to this project, I demonstrate that this drawn form of journalism can open up space for exploring the perspectives of people like displaced Haitians whose voices, agency and histories are often missing or negated in the news. Through specific examples from Picturing Aid in Haiti, which also foregrounds some of the complex dynamics involved in my own process of researching, writing and visually representing aid in a Haitian camp, this thesis also shows that graphic reportage has the potential to encourage greater reflexivity in journalism.
Humanitarian aid to Haiti has both positive and negative effects on a country that is already in a state of turmoil. Considering the aspects of education, economics, and the political climate in Haiti, and after conducting both academic research and primary source interviews from those affected firsthand by these issues, I concluded that outside aid and volunteerism to Haiti, and other third-world countries like it, is ultimately ineffective.