January 17, 2008

Google Gives Millions -- and Gets Bad Press!

Greetings. Recently in For Google and Others, Few Good Deeds Go Unpunished, I noted how difficult it could be for a corporation to do "good deeds" that have no obvious profit motive, without being roundly criticized one way or another.

A perfect example appeared today, when ABC News' site variously promoted and titled a story with the main home page headline: If You Love to Hate Google, Read This (as I type the entry you're reading, that's still the title bar text showing on the ABC News article -- at one point earlier today the actual story headline was: Is Google Rich and Stingy? Company Announces an Underwhelming $25 Million in Do-Good Grants).

The story draws various negative comparisons with Microsoft's philanthropic efforts, and asks whether the $25 million announcement was merely a publicity stunt. Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth.

I couldn't help but shake my head at the slant of the article. I guess I'm the only person left who thinks of $25 million as significant money. Yeah, I know, back when Jed Clampett moved to Beverly Hills that was enough moola to get personal daily attention from banker Mr. Drysdale, but it's the 21st century now -- what's 25 Meg anymore, huh?

It's still a lot of money for the groups that receive it, that's what it is.

I find attempts to somehow make moral judgments based on the comparative size of one's charitable or other similar contributions at any given point in time to be disquieting at best, especially when we're talking about relatively young firms, however well-endowed they happen to be at the moment.

If one really wishes to draw -- in a fair context -- comparisons with much older firms that's one thing. But to predicate an entire story on terms like "stingy," "underwhelming," and "love to hate" -- when we're talking about many millions of dollars being contributed, well, the term "unseemly" doesn't do justice to the article's bad taste.

I fully expect that as time goes on, both Google as a firm and the many individuals who have been enriched by Google's success will contribute ever more immense amounts of money to a wide range of worthy causes. But that's up to them, not to you or me.

If I were sitting in Googleplex building 43 today and saw that ABC News story, I might try to just shrug my shoulders, but then again I might be thinking of some lyrics from the Ballad of John and Yoko:

Christ you know it ain't easy,
You know how hard it can be.
The way things are going
They're going to crucify me.

Google has its glories and its problems, like any other firm comprised of mere mortals. But lambasting them for giving millions of dollars in grants on the theory that "it's not enough" is impolite, counterproductive, and just plain wrong.


Posted by Lauren at January 17, 2008 08:17 PM | Permalink
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