Sunday, April 29, 2007

Blogs break political media news

My colleague Sean Stannard Stockton got this to the world a few minutes before I did - so you can note his scoop here - The Huffington Post has hired Tom Edsall from Washington Post to serve as political editor. This is heading into the 2008 Presidential campaign, which HuffPo will staff with 100 citizen reporters. This announcement becomes official on Tuesday; Arianna Huffington gleefully gave the scoop to the blogs in the room.

Here's the media model:
Professional editor. Citizen reporters. Huffington's strategy - better reach, more feet on the ground to get the story - none of which will be held back by business costs or preferences of the advertising side of the media house. Professional editor brings experience, an eye for a story, and the ability to pull disparate stories and perspectives into compelling news.

But what is the philanthropy model?
As exciting as it is to say this news broke on the blogs (and it is pretty cool), lets not forget this is a conference about philanthropy. Turn the tables around and ask - what do the changes in media mean for philanthropy?

The first-pass answers to these questions, and the ones that dominated this morning's discussion, focused on foundations needing to partner with MTV or start blogging or watching what young people do. That's low hanging fruit.

Foundations need to go deeper and look at the behaviors and assumptions that have come to generational fruition with these new media tools. A short list of these would be:
  • rapid fire access to information,
  • always on, carry-anywhere access to information, friends, and media
  • new values about credibility and privacy
  • new ways of organizing to get something done
  • a great focus on the goal to be accomplished that don't assume certain bounds around certain sectors - blended sectoral solutions are a natural, not an exception
  • global reach means different structures for community building
  • fluid concerns about privacy and accessibility
If you take these assumptions as forces driving new media, you have to also ask yourself the harder questions about philanthropy. How will those steeped in these ways of thinking, these values think about organizing financial, community, and intellectual resources for social good?

Put it another way - when those whose core assumptions are shaped by the abilities of new media start to organize their philanthropy and voluntary action what will that action look like? Its not merely tinkering around the "Lincoln Logs" of existing organizations. Its building whole new connective materials and structures. When those of us who lead the current institutions think about whats coming we tend to assume its about improving what we've got - turning Lincoln Logs into LEGOs, for a metaphor. But for those who are building from what they know, its not about tinkering with the existing structures, its about new materials science and the creation of Magz.

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