Morphing Media: Philanthropy & New Media

The four panelists at the Morphing Media session were:

  • Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post
  • Dorothy Ridings, Former COF CEO
  • Ian Rowe, vice president, MTV
  • Jay Harris, COF Board Member
  • Maxwell King, The Heinz Endowments

All four of the panelists saw the value of New Media and the growing importance of its role in philanthropy. But there was wide disagreement on whether the New Media was a wonderful new opportunity (Huffington & Rowe) or if there was a more equal balance of risks and rewards (Harris & King).

Harris talked about the role of technology in encouraging public discourse and that while he had hesitations about the New Media’s current impact on philanthropy, he thought that in the end it would be good for the public discourse. He applauded the new networks of common interest that were developing (in the philanthropy arena, that is the readers of this and the other blogs on my blogroll.)

Huffington talked about the way that old media models have encouraged giving to established, well-known charitable entities. And also, by only talking about giving during Christmas and thanksgiving, failed to engage readers on philanthropy as part of their daily life. She mentioned how her teenage daughters would been transformed, for a week or two, by some sort of philanthropic experience, but that you needed constant engagement to spur true change. She joked that the mainstream media has ADD, while bloggers are obsessive compulsive and can bring the media back to an important story that they quickly moved on from. She used disasters as an example of how people irregularly engage philanthropically. Said that when Amazon changed their home page to a charitable giving button 7 hours after 9/11, they raised $70 million in three days. If we can engage people more regularly, the capacity to give is enormous.

Max King: The economic model of information distribution is broken. But “dramatically increasing complexity” is the dominate theme of our time. Under those circumstances, it is impossible to believe that there is not economic value to good information and analysis.

Ian Rowe: Talked about the joint ventures that MTV has done with various nonprofits to educate and engage young people on social issues. Pointed out that there can be more impact for the foundation by partnering with MTV than making a grant to a nonprofit. Gave as an example the idea that a $100k “grant” to MTV can spur the development of a 30 min show on an issue that reaches 400 million households and is designed specifically to connect with young people.

Harris speculated that journalism needs to be removed from the pure free market to preserve the important role it has in serving the public good. Huffington responded by saying that there has been no golden age of journalism serving the public good. She gave numerous examples of how the mainstream press failed during the run up to the Iraq war. She said all of this has created a disenchantment with the media that is there own fault and pointed to this disenchantment as the reason we’ve seen the rise of blogs.

Rowe: Said that the amount of time that senior leadership of any organization spends with young people is directly correlated with the innovation that comes out of that organization.

A question from the audience brought up the concept of the digital divide as an age related, not economically related issue. Huffington said it was important that we marry the best of the old with the best of the new and bring together wisdom and innovation, not just young and old.

Harris ended by telling the audience that we need to be sure that we do not ignore the power of things that are hard to measure and Huffington added that the concept of the Tipping Point is useful when trying to understand the role of New Media to Philanthropy.

These Cliff Notes are for readers to digest and comment back on. I’ll be writing up my analysis of the session soon. Let me know what you think and what the notes above stir up in your mind.