, Salem, MA


May 18, 2013

Column: What charity can learn from journalism

Sociologists are damned with the burden of knowing all the troubles of the world. In his book “Culture Making,” Andy Crouch describes journalists as the poor cousins of sociologists. Both study the mechanisms of culture, and both are damned.

As a sociology major who has aspirations in journalism, I suppose this makes me doubly damned. But I am also learning how culture allows me to understand what needs to be fixed. And my generation is one that wants to right the wrongs of the past; the increasing numbers of non-profit start-ups reflect that.

We want to help those starving babies in Africa that our mothers told us would appreciate the Brussels sprouts left on our plates, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Hunger is bad and should be something we want to disappear. The passion and urgency we have approaching these problems is inspiring, but I’m afraid we’re doing it wrong.

In my journalism class we were required to read “The Elements of Journalism” by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel. Like many beginning classes, we learned the foundational necessities for journalism. But these ideas can also be useful when thinking about charity. The ideas of verification, truth, and loyalty to the citizens are good virtues to apply to life.

Verification is the process of making sure the facts are, in fact, true. Verification is what separates “infotainment” and hearsay from the actual news, and though the news world has struggled recently with properly exercising this process, this doesn’t take away from its importance.

In 2010 after the Haitian earthquake, many people and organizations flocked to help. The Red Cross “led the Calvary.” According to CBS News, the association raised $444 million, but only $111 million has gone to help the victims of the earthquake. The process of verification provides donors with discernment to research the effectiveness of the charity beforehand.

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