The New York Times has an odd article today about Eli Broad, odd because the point of it seems to be to depict him as some sort of unusually pushy new money type and to fault him for actually keeping track of what is happening with the money he gives away. The article sets up a false distinction between Los Angeles and New York: "While money in New York is generally concentrated across a few miles of Manhattan, Los Angeles wealth is spread across hundreds of miles among people with diffuse interests, many with few longstanding ties to the city. That has meant that young donors can quickly gain access to big-name things..." With the Wall Street Journal reporting last week that New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art just elected a 32-year-old to its board of trustees, the idea that it's just in Los Angeles that young donors can quickly gain access seems strange.
Then there's the part of the Times article where Mr. Broad says, "You can come to this city as I did 40 some odd years ago without the right background, familywise, politically, religiously, and be accepted." There's no further explanation at all in the article of Mr. Broad's religion or religious background, so readers are left wondering what he's talking about. Is he Muslim? There's an elliptical reference to the fact that "unlike other cities, where old families and old money tend to dominate boards, Los Angeles has the philanthropic spirit of a relatively new city." It's an interesting formulation, "old families." The Times article says nothing about how old Mr. Broad's family is, or about how one would even go about ascertaining the age of a family. Mr. Broad's family may well date back to Abraham, but he somehow doesn't fit the Times's definition of an "old family."
One can understand and even agree with the Times's policy of not including people's religion or race in articles in cases where it isn't relevant; one FutureOfCapitalism.com reader we know long saved a clipped-out copy of a Times correction on that point. But omitting the religion or race and then going ahead anyway with an article that is informed by or perpetuates a religious or racial stereotype is almost as bad. Anyway, the broader and probably just as interesting point is the way the Times article is laden with stereotypes not only about Jews or "new money" but about the rich, period. The Times writes about Mr. Broad: "His focus on minute details also makes museum leaders and others chafe; it is much like taking money from your rich parents who then tell you what car to buy and where your kids ought to go to school." Anyway, it would be nice if the Times reporter and her editors would tell us about Mr. Broad without making assumptions about the readers' parents. And it would be nice if a person could be rich and charitable in America without getting this kind of treatment in the press.