Monday, July 22, 2013

Chronicle, Guardian Omit 58% Overhead of SF AIDS Walk

If you gave a dollar to the San Francisco AIDS Walk on Sunday at the annual event in Golden Gate Park, only 42 cents went to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation which is the beneficiary of the fundraiser. Fifty-eight cents of every dollar donated went to Craig Miller's MZA Productions, a commercial fundraising operation.

California's attorney general Kamala Harris' yearly report on commercial fundraisers for 2011, the most recent available, on page 110 shows that MZA Productions returned only 42% ($1.2 million) of total money raised ($2.8 million) at that year's SF AIDS Walk to the foundation.

MZA and the foundation last year told me in writing they were committed to lowering the 58% of proceeds going for overhead costs at the 2013 AIDS Walk, and I hope they succeeded doing that. However, neither entity expected significant reduction of production expenses this year.

Don't expect either the SF Chronicle or the Bay Guardian to delve into the matter of overhead in their coverage of yesterday's walk in Golden Gate Park.

The Chronicle's Kristen V. Brown wrote the usual "SF AIDS Foundation said. Period, end of story" article tugging at heartstrings and sharing scary stats, and over all numbers for money raised across the decades. Not one word about the pretty penny it takes to put on the walk. The story might as well be sponsored content.

Speaking of which, that's exactly what the Bay Guardian is providing for the AIDS Walk but you have to look very closely at their post to see the small disclosure that the post is actually a promotion.

Leading up to the event, the Guardian, never known for much interest in excessive salaries at AIDS Inc groups or the costs of long-distance bike rides and galas hosted by the Academy of Friends at Oscar time, created what appears to be a regular news blog post. It asks "Why do you walk?", the theme of the fundraiser this past Sunday.

If you look closely under the Guardian's search box the "Promo" disclosure is there in small type, which I missed the first time looking at the post, and unlike regular posts it's not possible to leave a comment.

Well, at least the Guardian was honest (in tiny type) about their pre-event coverage being sponsored content and didn't masquerade it as "news" like the Chronicle did. What's the value to news consumers if both a daily and an alternative weekly ignore the very high overhead costs of the San Francisco AIDS Walk, as documented by the state attorney general?

The Chronicle and the Guardian need to be reminded AIDS fundraisers don't come cheap and readers should be regularly informed of the price tag for walk and bicycle related marathons.

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