Press Coverage of Philanthropy

Bruce Trachtenberg, the executive director of The Communications Network, stopped by to leave me a comment:

Hopefully the attention that blogging is bringing — and the many discussions and conversations it is spawning — will encourage traditional press to deepen its coverage of philanthropy. It’s not enough to simply report on the number and size of grants — which is what the Philanthropic Awareness Initiative found as typical of foundation news coverage in its recent study of reporting on philanthropy over a 15-year-period. As my co-author and I wrote in a Chronicle of Philanthropy op-ed last July (, "When reporters cover the business world, they produce articles when new products or strategies are announced, when money is made or lost, and when companies grow or fail. And in between the coverage of those developments, enormous attention is paid to the types of businesses they are, what underlies the decisions companies make, and what they could do to become more successful. That same approach should guide philanthropy coverage . Reporters should be encouraged to provide in-depth and analytic coverage about the underlying problems in society that foundations are trying to solve, the likely results of their investments, and follow-up coverage about what did or didn’t happen."

Bruce’s co-author of the op-ed he refers to was Grant Oliphant, a vice president at the Heinz Endowments. Maxwell King, the president of the Heinz Endowments will be a speaker at the Foundations & The Morphing Media session that I referred to in my last post. You should read Bruce and Grant’s op-ed, it makes a critical point about the state of philanthropy press coverage.

So what can bloggers bring to the table to help enhance the media coverage? Cross-disciplinary perspectives. There are very few “philanthropy reporters” working in the media today. Most philanthropy related articles are written by reporters whose beats include either nonprofits or business. By today’s philanthropy stories often fall in between these neat categories. For instance, who should be covering the NetSquared Conference? To me, the NetSquared Conference represents a compelling media story. But who should cover it? The technology reporters, business reporters and nonprofit reporters with their distinct beats are unlikely to have the context to grasp the entire story. This is not meant to be a slight towards journalists in any way. But philanthropy is undergoing a transformation and evolving in new ways. As Susan Raymond said when was launched as a for profit “foundation”, we are at “The end of definitions”. When we can’t even define what philanthropy means, who should we ask to tell the story of philanthropy? I think the story is being told by the philanthropy blogs.

The authors of the philanthropy blogs include:

  • Foundation Consultants
  • Investment Managers
  • Nonprofit Employees
  • Nonprofit Consultants
  • Foundation Employees
  • Moral Tutors
  • Community Foundation Executives
  • Ex-Philosophy Professors
  • Social Entrepreneurs
  • Hedge Fund Employees
  • Philanthropic Consultants & Service Providers
  • Authors

The cross-disciplinary nature of this group is exactly why they are so well suited to telling this chapter of the story of philanthropy.