MEDIA WATCH: Public wonders if donations are reaching intendedrecipients

America has responded to the events of September 11 with a record

amount of charitable donations. Time (November 5) described the more

than $1 billion that has been pledged or donated in the weeks

since September 11 as the largest philanthropic effort for a single

cause in American history.

However, while US generosity has been impressive and has prompted

feelings of pride, there are also concerns that the money donated for

September 11 victims and their families is not reaching its intended


The media has latched on to this investigative reporting story and

concluded that there is more than meets the eye to the charitable


Nearly half of the stories analyzed by Media Watch suggested that

donations aren't reaching the needy - either due to delays or because

the funds are being used elsewhere. The American Red Cross, the

country's largest disaster-relief organization, appears to have caught

the brunt of the media's anger over the notion that funds were being

misused. On ABC's Nightline (October 26), Ted Koppel described how these

concerns had been a factor in the abrupt resignation of its CEO, Dr.

Bernadine Healy. Of the $529 million raised in a newly created

fund by the Red Cross, it was disclosed that only $200 million is

being allocated to direct emergency services and direct payments to

victims' families.

On that same program, the editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy

stated, "The Red Cross is one of the most trusted organizations we have

in this country, and now they've broken that trust. That can be very

dangerous for many charities across the country, because now people

aren't really secure that their gifts are going to go where they thought

they would."

The Los Angeles Times (October 27) also criticized the Red Cross' recent

TV ads, which featured images of the smoldering shell of the World Trade

Center while Hollywood stars encouraged the public to give. The paper

questioned whether the public understood that less than half of the

money raised would go the victims' families.

Another issue raised by the media is whether the 190 charitable

organizations involved should coordinate their activities to be as

efficient as possible in distributing financial support and assigning

caseworkers, an idea that the Red Cross under Healy rejected.

The press told of wide support for this idea, championed by New York

Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Following Healy's resignation, a

Washington Times editorial (November 2) approved of the Red Cross'

decision to join other charities in this effort "to reduce duplication,

fill any voids and tap the full range of experiences and talents that

all of these parties bring."

There were also many reports that indicated that with all of US'

attention focused on the tragedy, other charities were being overlooked.

CNN (October 29) identified a number of detrimental factors facing

charities: "War, unemployment, anthrax, and now a credibility problem,

which may weigh heavily on charitable giving during the most important

time of the year."

Judging from the media coverage, the way that some charities have

handled September 11-related funds may have given the industry a black

eye, and those charities that haven't been involved with September 11

are seeing their sources of funds evaporate.

Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found


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