Philanthropy in spotlight… or not?

In the past couple of months I was busy doing media monitoring on philanthropy in several countries of the region. That is, I kept press clipping agencies busy with media monitoring and I was busy trying to make some sense of what I was receiving.

If anyone wonders why did I choose to spend time in this way, I was trying to understand more about status of the local philanthropy in the region but also lack of success of civil society to receive stable funding from local sources (other than the government that is). So I thought, one of the ways we can get some objective view on philanthropy AND civil society and philanthropy is by following the media. In saying this, I perfectly understand that media often give anything but an objective view on something. However, media do shape public opinion, driven by the assessment of what is interesting to the public. Looking at the reports of different type of media should, at the end, give a picture that is ‘objective’, in a sense that it doesn’t prioritize the specific actors.

Media were monitored in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia: partly because these countries share similar languages, but also because in each of these four countries civil society actors are working on philanthropy development for five years at least, which made possible to look for a relevant insight into how civil society is perceived by media (and perhaps public) in this field.

I ended up with a lot of interesting data: frequency and type of coverage, geographic distribution of donations, what and how is raised, who gives and for what purposes, recepients and beneficiaries etc…or at least media perception on all of these issues. I will try to put some of the findings in this and hopefully some posts to follow. And I’ll start with what might be the first question: does philanthropy feature in media at all?  

Well, looking at the number of report it seems that it does: in app. 2,5 months there were over 1,100 reports on donations, actions and on giving (the actual number was even higher, but some of the articles got out as their primary focus was not on giving). That’s A LOT!!!

Numbers for countries it looks like (and there is a story behind these numbers – maybe for another post):


But… and it turns to be not an insignificant but…

When I looked at how extensive these reports are, picture is different: majority of articles in printed media are small (up to 70cm2) and medium (70 – 150cm2). Similarly, majority of reports on electronic media are up to 3 minutes.

Their location is even more significant, as the chart shows:


As you can see, only up to one tenth are placed on the first five pages. Prime-time reports are also few and far between: in B&H 1 report; Croatia 2 reports; Montenegro 5 reports and in Serbia 9 reports – all below 10%.

And, as I naively hoped that I would be able to interview journalists who often write about this topic, I tried to track their names… only to discover that vast majority of reports is either not signed, or is just signed using initials. True, initials at some newspapers are sometimes repeated – meaning that same person covers this issue – but in most reports this is not the case. As my friends from the media explained to me, not signing or signing by initials (if the topic is not political or controversial which then has different connotations), means that topic/news are not considered that important and/or that they are probably covered by honorary associates or junior journalists.

So, the questions for the public: 

does any of this ring a bell? Or is it your experience totally different? 


do the numbers mean more than the length, location or journalists who write about it? That is, should we be happy with the numbers? Or should we press the media for more lengthy reports? More significant places for reports?

or maybe

do you think that any of these findings really can help in understanding how philanthropy is viewed by the media?  

[By the way, if you want to get something published, the most open media (with largest number of reports) are:  

  • B&H:             Dnevni avaz, Dnevni list, Oslobodjenje, Fokus, Nezavisne novine
  • Croatia:        Novi list, Glas istre, Slobodna Dalmacija, Vecernji list, Glas Slavonije
  • Montenegro: Dan, Vijesti, Pobjeda
  • Serbia:          Blic (often in Dodatak though), Vecernje novosti, Dnevnik, Press, Politika]



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Aleksandra Vesic