To The Editor
SEPT. 11 TRAGEDY LAUNCHED SELF-PROMOTING FUNDRAISERS
by Lisa Parr
American Reporter Reader
Long Beach, Calif.
LOS ANGELES -- None of us ever knows when Death is coming. September 11th told us that. Act as if today is your last day. This idea is registering in our collective psyches more than before. I walk the streets of LA, seeing extensions of kindness where once there were none. Has our sense of ethics, lying rusty and dormant, been reawakened? The plethora of tragedy created a new spirit of generosity. Our national resolve, shaken, became imbued with a sense of gratitude that we are not victims, not forsaken. We are Americans. We help one another.
Yet, in the first weeks of the tragedy, some of charitable outpourings seemed comically disingenuou. I am talking about the Los Angeles radio and television stations. Every radio station, usually involved with Los Angeles charitable causes only because by law they are required to be a public service, was jumping on a collective bandwagon of aggressive fundraising. Clear Channel's was the loudest. Television commercials showing Rick Dees' usual parody of Madonna's "Hey Mr. DJ" was revamped to have him do voice-over for a commercial for the "Clear Channel Relief Fund." Ryan Seacrest of KYSR discussed each day's results on his afternoon show.
All of this would seem well and good except for two things: First, all of the funds collected everywhere were going to the Red Cross, which was not then giving the money to the victims' families. Second, each Clear Channel personality smugly discussed the many "millions" they were raising toward the effort. It reeked of false and supercilious pride.
Other Los Angeles broadcast stations vied against their competitors, each regularly reporting how much it was raising as if in a competitive bidding war. Television stations were competing with radio. In an unprecedented show of corporate piety, Disney KABC set up a parking lot event in Los Angeles which it then massively reported as news. Each had sound bytes resembling campaign slogans. What is great about America is the generosity of spirit we have in times of collective crisis. We band together in unity and work toward a common goal. The tragedy turned into a crass commercialized contest of virtue and public attention. Since collective giving got publicity, those who gave, got it. Why worry about motives when the benefit to the victims was the same?
Maybe they got more relief because of the frenzy. It's a little like politicians who ride into town to kiss all the babies before an election. With the most unselfish giving, the recipients do not even know who the donors are. I wonder how applying this concept would have changed the fundraising landscape. No more grandstanding. The most humble gift, which says much about the giver, is an anonymous one. These stations could use a few tips.