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  • Writer's pictureDC Equalizer

Be Supportive

Generosity is not a novel concept. It's so critical to the human experience, in fact, that our bodies are hard-wired to derive health benefits from lending a hand.

So why do strangers with shared/similar goals usually encounter silence or disdain when they try to partner with likeminded groups? Why not at least kick the tires, even if no money is involved?

As a publication trying to elevate voices and opinions that are marginalized by traditional media, we have a keen interest in answering those two questions. Without exaggeration, the tendency to keep potential allies at arm's length is the most perplexing phenomenon associated with reporting the hidden side of the news.

Today's editorial aims to address that situation. Hopefully, it'll crack open a few otherwise closed doors in the future.

Below you will find a variety of scenarios where a little teamwork would have gone a long way. Some are rebuffed offers to help; others are pleas for assistance that were silently brushed aside:

  • In an effort to give The Equalizer immediate credibility, we tried to join a well-known independent news association. Throughout the application process, we were told that there was "no problem with your coverage." In spite of this confirmation, they eventually informed us that we did not meet their "journalistic standards" because our "premise is very broad" and they require a "narrower scope." Never mind that these guidelines don't seem to apply to their current members... including one DC blog about everything from Eastern European politics to Staten Island ferry schedules.

  • Late this winter, one of our reporters asked an issue-specific coalition to publish a prewritten op-ed inextricably related to their mission. Despite being an active member of this group for years, he was told that his piece wasn't a geographic fit... even though their website has recent posts about areas much further away than the one he highlighted.

  • A retiree fighting local government ghosted us following our proposal to shed light on her grievances. We recognize that interview hesitancy goes with the territory (especially with an unknown outlet); but it rarely occurs after an hourlong talk with a source who entrusted her unlocked phone with the reporter while she attended to affairs elsewhere.

At some point we decided to test a theory by reengaging four organizations who initially blew us off. We asked: "Do you accept donations?" To be clear, that was the entirety of the follow-up text/email we sent. No salutation or signature. Straight to the bottom line. Look at how the four of them replied to that extremely curt outreach:

  • We circled back with a Virginia civic group a week after volunteering for the cause and demonstrating our expertise on their subject matter. They never replied to that correspondence but got back to us within four hours of dollars being mentioned.

  • Our associate spoke at length with two small business owners from Minnesota about an ordeal they were facing in late January. The conversation went cold on their end until talk of free money came into play on February 19th. Their fire was rekindled within 27 minutes.

  • That same colleague forwarded some useful ammunition to a new DC-area political campaign. Not a peep from them -- not even a thank you -- could be heard. Of course, when he pinged them about donations 35 days later, they hit send in under one minute!

  • Not that long ago, we were given the cold shoulder by a major open government nonprofit. You would think they might be interested in a story where FOIA requests uncovered government employees mocking and lying to citizens. Well, that didn't happen. Our evidence was apparently destined to remain in the dark, even though we submitted it during Sunshine Week. Have no fear though... they were more than happy to let us pad their bank account! [In fairness, they graciously disclosed their stance is to not "get involved with disputes." Our counterpoint: why not make some sort of effort to help?]

Why can't society recognize the net positives gained from collaborating with people who generally agree in spirit? We have to do better. We have to be better.

Who hasn't been guilty of blowing off out-of-the-blue inquiries or letting new relationships slip through the cracks? Isn't it time to change that?

If we all commit to helping one unknown kindred advocate, think of what that would yield. Now extrapolate what is possible if each of us merely considered repeating this once per week!

Look -- everyone from Gandhi to MLK to Einstein has a great quote about the value of altruism. Yet, Jacques Cousteau, of all people, perhaps said it best:

"It takes generosity to discover the whole through others. If you realize you are only a violin, you can open yourself up to the world by playing your role in the concert."

Don't be a one-man band. Reply to that email. Take that call. Help someone random succeed.


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