At a recent meeting European Foundation Centre CEO Gerry Salole was asked why people set up foundations. He gave a characteristically balanced answer. There are a variety of possible reasons: for some it’s a matter of altruism; some people have a wish to ‘give back’ to society; sometimes there are particular development challenges people want to address; sometimes it could even be a matter of guilt. Four reasons there, none picked out as ‘good’ reasons! So how did six people come to tweet that ‘Gerry Salole says a good reason to set up a foundation is guilt’?
The reason is not hard to find. As someone who spends a large part of her life trying to make stories interesting – albeit in a niche area for a niche audience – I understand the urge to emphasize the sensational. The challenge of competing with the vast and ever-increasing amount of material that is available on the internet, through blogs, Twitter and Facebook, etc as well as through more regular publications, seems almost insurmountable. The need to make yourself heard above the noise is all.
Having only 140 characters to play with can only make things worse. You have no space to include the rest of the story, or any context – just the sensation, pure and simple, accurate or otherwise. Yet it is sometimes suggested that in future Twitter et al will be an ever more important source of information, many people’s preferred way to find out what’s happening? How do you mediate between the informative and the plain untrue? In theory the volume of messages should together establish the picture. But if you go back to the Gerry Salole example, apparently no one bothered with the rest of the story – too boring. A conundrum for the age of social media …
Caroline Hartnell is editor of Alliance