Thursday, March 09, 2006

Unintended insight

Several folks wrote in to point out that the data on the Smoking Gun site is many years old. How embarrassing for yours truly. Until I realized that my larger point about the immediacy of blogs and the slower pace of philanthropy change still holds. No one can argue that more types of media, more people creating content and looking up data (new or old), and more data sources all make it much easier to find and publicize information that individuals and institutions once thought that they controlled. This has good effects, I think, in that transparency and accurate reporting matter. It also has fed a cultural fetish for information that really doesn't matter - as evidenced by the popularity of People Magazine and its ilk. We care about celebrity gossip at least in part because we can. And the more accessible the data + the more media out there the more of this information will be published. Most of it, new or old, really doesn't matter to most of us.

For philanthropy, foundations especially, my hope would be that this increasing visibility of information will help them recognize themselves as (and act as) entities with a public responsibility. They certainly have a public face.

Celebrity philanthropy

Thanks to my colleague, Tina, for finding this. The Smoking Gun goes looking for philanthropic foibles - lest we had any doubt about 1) how the media have changed, 2) how the role of philanthropy has changed in terms of public opinion. Will it be long before the newest publications "People: Philanthropy" Or maybe Sports Illustrated: The Giving Issue.