West, Texas: Across the Philanthropic Divide
[imgbelt img=disaster_table.jpg]The explosions at the Boston Marathon and West, Texas, occurred within days of each other and had similar catastrophic results. But the media and fundraising response to the two tragedies shows that Boston and West are worlds apart. It’s one measurement of the philanthropic gap between rural and urban America.
image of the London Guardian is from the Newseum’s archive of front pages covering the Boston Marathon bombings. There is no archive of front pages covering the West, Texas,
Two days later, an ammonium nitrate plant—fertilizer for those not up on their chemistry—exploded in West, Texas, a small community north of Waco, as emergency personnel were responding to a fire at the factory. Fifteen people, including first responders, died in the explosion. Over 260 people were injured in the blast and more than 150 homes were obliterated.
Each major news network planted reporters and based their news shows in Boston to report from the bombing site around the clock, for days after one Tsarnaev brother was killed and the other captured. The explosion that flattened much of West, Texas, hardly got much attention, though President Obama mentioned West in one of his press conferences on the alleged Boston terrorism. Nonetheless, the potentially accidental nature of the West, Texas, tragedy barely registered against the press coverage of the intentional nature of the Boston incident.
The news coverage imbalance is mirrored by the disproportionate charitable response to the people killed or injured in Boston compared to the residents who lost lives and property in West, Texas. Some of this is media-market related, but that translates to a differential treatment of rural and urban in both charitable and philanthropic giving as well as societal priorities. It’s not malicious, it’s not in many ways even noticed, but in a society that increasingly relegates rural to an afterthought, it isn’t surprising.
The Charitable Response to Boston
Almost immediately after the marathon bombings, Boston Mayor Tom Menino and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick established the One Fund Boston to help the individuals and families most harmed by the incident. Menino explained that immediately after the bombing, he was contacted by business leaders and philanthropists he described as “heartbroken” by the tragedy and who “want(ed) to do everything they can to help these people physically and psychologically.” [imgcontainer left][img:onefund1.jpg"/>