Mediating the News Feed

American Bacchae

Tutor Skyped me last night at 3 am. Apropos of whatever was on his mind, he said, "Social Enterprises now have as many bottom lines as there were once gods on Mt Olympus. It takes only two to make tragedy, and three for farce. Soon Ovid's Metamorphoses will be taught in business school. They call it 'story telling.' The best stories drive metrics. If only they might read The Bacchae. Reason rules the polis and the great god Dionysus calls for Hillary's head." Tutor may be drinking again. I worry about him sometimes. "If this is what a lifetime of reading gets you, Tutor," I said, "we are better off ignorant." He said,  "You are in good company." Then he hung up. 


Joe Bageant:

The global takeover of media and politics -- those inseparable Gemini twins of the new world order of things -- is one of the most profound phenomenons in human history. And by corporate take over I do not mean in the strictest corporate consolidation sense, though that is happing too. I mean it in the sense that capitalist corporatist values have been internalized by all participants in both politics and media to the extent that they can only operate toward its ends. It constitutes their very unconscious in that it is the operating instructions for their daily lives, world view and behavior. As it does for so many ordinary Australians and Americans and just about anybody else on the planet with an extra buck in their pockets that can be extracted.

I recently attended the National Conference on Media Reform in America. There I met hundreds of sincere Americans putting out great energies in an effort to reverse the consolidation of media and create a place for alternative views exist in the public eye. All of them were "working within the system" for change. At the end of it all I felt sad. Sad because working within the system means working within a system owned, governed and operated by our adversaries.

Wealthbondage supports Media Reform.  Grant Application here.

Who is on The Bus? Who is in the Dumpster? And Who Makes The Rules? was named the #1 site covering the social Web. We track news about Facebook and other social networks and Web 2.0 sites. This site is operated by JD Lasica, a social media strategist and:
• co-founder of Ourmedia
• an evangelist for Outhink
• president of the Social Media Group
• author of Darknet, a book about the personal media revolution
• a CNET Top 100 Media Blogger
• a podcaster and videoblogger

Here is a great video post by J.D. Lasica on "who is on the bus"  with political candidates, and who is not. Do bloggers have to tell politicians that they are bloggers when the pol talks informally? Should bloggers be expected to observe the obsequious decorum of journalists who, in return for being on the bus, play back the political line? (Which is how we got into Iraq.)

In philanthropy, as in political coverage, the Citizen Morals Tutors like me desperately want access to those with Wealth and Power. Otherwise we can't rise in our profession, make a good living, or change the world one little flattery, one polite silence, at a time. So, in return, we tend to be nice, putting aside our proven nonconsensual morals training techniques, like spanking, lashing, the lancet and the purgative. I am afraid, in return for access, we spare the rod and spoil the philanthropist.  Should I tell philanthropists that I am a Dungeon Master to the Stars, or consort with such? I wonder. It might not be good for bidnis. No one likes an insubordinate menial.

Are we allowed to write like this? Or, is it taboo? (Query pending with my boss, and generous patron, she who rules us all.)


Boeing Wealth Bondage News Nexus Alleged

Jonathan Schwarz discovers the following ad embedded in a press release from NBC News.

Boeing and its 153,000 employees are proud to sponsor
Meet the Press.  To learn more about Boeing go to

At least here at Gifthub we put the advertorials from Wealth Bondage, our proud corporate sponsor, in a little blue box rather than embedding them right into the news content.  I admit the Boeing blurb is set of with little dashes. But dashes don't do it. Influence can leak right through those spaces between the dashes, and the dashed lines are open on either side. Very bad journalistic practice. Always set off the sponsor's material inside a box formed by a solid line. That way no one can question your objectivity.

Que Pasa?

Mr. Matrullo reflects on  Reinhold Niebuhr. To see the mote in another's eye, but not the beam in your own is an ethical failing. For that matter so is being blind to the murders traditionally committed by those in your station in life.  What is going on? Best not to see or say, lest you be the one to whom bad things happen in secret with nothing said and no appeal. How well Americans will adapt themselves to these blindnesses and insights remains to be seen. So far we are doing very well, I think, at least in the not seeing what is going on area of our social obligations. Philanthropy helps too in that regard being so polite and inoffensive. Leadership in selective attention is provided by our media. Who can blame us for not seeing what is really going on?

Tony Locy: Reporter who Won't Back Down

Remarkable, isn't it, how hard the system comes down on those who seek truth and transparency? Let it be a lesson to us all. Let's work within the system, to reform it gently, without touching upon any truths that might make the powers that be uncomfortable. Use common sense, people! I have two bottom lines. I want to tell the truth, yes, and save the world. But I also want to do well as I do good. When I hear about people getting bankrupted for doing good, or going to jail for it, I know my own approach (hypocrisy writ large) is on the right track. I just got myself a plaque from my boss in Wealth Bondage, commending me for "Loyalty, Truth, and Service." I also got an autographed photo of her to hang in my cubicle. Now, if I just get that nickel an hour raise, I can be sure that I am "doing well by doing good."

The Authority as Anachronism

Tom Belford at The Agitator on generational differences and how they will affect both media and cause groups:

For at bottom, what do cause groups do other than interpret current events and package and spin that information to mobilize supporters around the threats and opportunities represented by those events? But just as under-30s don't seem to need an Uncle Walter anymore, why would they need a "trusted voice" like the Sierra Club or an ACLU to help them understand things ... when they have Google and 300 I-messaging buddies to sort things out?

The Chronicle on Boverton Beaver's Bakery

Broom As a reporter for The Chronicle of Philanthropy's Give and Take, you are sitting, knees crossed, and back straight, in a public relations event promoting a Double Bottom Line Social Venture Bakery in Detroit. From the window you can glimpse a prison looming like a fortress.  The meeting is run by a Harvard MBA employed by Beaverton Social Venture Foundation funded with money from a Wall Street Wizard,  Boverton Beaver, who made his billions buying and selling weapons manufacturing companies, including one that specializes in anti-personnel land-mines made to look like children's toys.  He also served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and as a lobbyist for a defense contractor. He was indicted for fraud, but found innocent via a hung jury after a prolonged trial costing millions to litigate.  He is best known for his trophy wife, a former Ms. Nude Miami Beach, now on the Board of a Conservative Think Tank, and for his contribution to the theory and practice of social venture philanthropy.

The bakery employs ex-cons and teaches them the skills needed to get a job: sweeping up, slicing bread, stoking the coal oven, running a cash register, and waiting on tables in the bakery's cafe.  The artisanal breads are sold to wealthy friends of the funder. The loaves come with a picture on the wrapper of an ex-con smiling ingratiatingly and holding out a loaf of white bread in his black hand.  The MBA is going over what she is calling "the balanced scorecard," showing how many ex-cons get jobs, what the bakery costs, what it earns, how much profit is makes, how much money it saves in social services.  She is working her way towards the line called, "Total Net Social Return on Investment," some staggeringly large number, supported by 200 pages of spreadsheets and several metaphors.  The cash on cash bottom-line shows that Boverton's Foundation is making 8% ("a Program Related Investment" as the MBA explains.) The Mayor who is active promoting "three strikes and you are out" legislation, and who owns a significant interest in the local for-profit prison business is next on the agenda, to give an award to his friend, and political funder, Boverton Beaver, for service to the community.

An ungainly Stranger, in a white leisure suit, neck open to the waist, bell-bottoms swinging, rises from the back of the room to say, "You know, my Fellow Friends of Philanthropy, I notice that all the ex-cons with brooms and other signs of servitude are  black or brown.  Talking to a few it was mostly crack that put them behind bars, and petty crimes.  Yet, I notice that you, Boverton Beaver, have a daughter in rehab. I am glad for her that her needs are met, and crimes, if any mitigated.  And you, Mayor, wasn't your wife at that clinic in the Hamptons?  Boverton, what is the double bottom line on those land-mines you manufactured, that now litter Afghanistan? How do you net money and mayhem? And those sweat-heart deals with your cronies in DC? What was the Social Return on that? Has anyone asked whether giving these penny-ante felons a crappy job after 20 years in the slammer, is tantamount to justice? Maybe we got the right bars and the wrong gaolers? Maybe we trade sides, Boverton, and you and our Mayor push those brooms? And the ex-cons make money, 8% cash on cash, on your back and they call it philanthropy?"

Of course the Stranger is hustled out by the Security Guards. "Don't tase me, Bro!," the Stranger exclaims, before he starts screaming.  As the door slams, the MBA swishes her fine mane of black hair and says, "Excuse me for the interruption. Where was I? O, yes, the balanced scorecard and our Social Return on Investment."

Suddenly, the Stranger, beaten, bloody, his white leisure suit torn, patches of it smoking, staggers back into the hall - "The scorecard? Balanced? Stacked, maybe, not balanced." Then the room goes black.  There are confused sounds of a crowd trampling on each other headed  for the Emergency Exits. When the lights come on, there you are, in the empty hall, wondering what you will write for the Chronicle. Something upbeat, something balanced, like that scorecard? Something noncommittal? Or a puff piece about Boverton Beaver? My suggestion is this: Ask your immediate supervisor for guidance. Keep your nose clean and your mouth shut. It is better to err on the side of caution, or like that Stranger, you might find yourself in small dark hole.  He will be lucky if they even let him out to push a broom some day in that bakery he defiled with speech so open in a world so closed. Remember, the most important thing in any piece about philanthropy is what you know damn well, and refrain from writing.   

The Decline of the News, by The Wire's Executive Producer

Does the News Matter to Anyone Any More?, by David Simon:

Isn't the news itself still valuable to anyone? In any format, through any medium -- isn't an understanding of the events of the day still a salable commodity? Or were we kidding ourselves? Was a newspaper a viable entity only so long as it had classifieds, comics and the latest sports scores?

David Simon, a Baltimore Sun reporter from 1983-95, is executive producer of HBO's "The Wire." The final season of the drama depicts the struggles of a present-day newspaper.