Hi all —

Longtime reader, first time poster. I'm probably delinquent in making this pitch, but some EA friends of mine encouraged me to write in under the logic that if you're interested in effective altruism, you may find what we're building at Puck, our new publication, to be of value.

Puck is a new investor-backed media outlet focused on the inside conversation in Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Wall Street and Washington, and I am one of the founding partners over there. I came to Puck after about five years covering donors and their work in politics and philanthropy (first at CNN, and then at Vox); at Puck, I'm continuing to write about the world of Silicon Valley wealth, trying to report out a specific question at the heart of the Forum — how can people with resources do the most good for the world? I describe myself as EA-sympathetic, although I find myself driven primarily by a desire to equip the public with new information about a philanthropic sector that is not as transparent as many of us would like.

Over the last few months, for instance, we've written about a lot of EA topics — such as the pandemic preparedness efforts of Sam Bankman-Fried; the political activities of Dustin Moskovitz and Open Phil; and broken news about lots of the big philanthropists, such as MacKenzie Scott, Peter Thiel and Laurene Powell Jobs. A particular area of interest of mine, and perhaps to some of you, is the collision between EA and Democratic politics, or how Democratic donors can bring EA principles to campaigns and outside groups.

Anyway, you'll see that the links above are paywalled in pursuit of building a new media model, but you can read one article for free by trading an email address, and I'd be happy to email you any full story you're interested in (teddy@puck.news) If you'd like to sign up to receive this reporting straight in your inbox, you can enter your address here.

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Thanks for sharing, Teddy. Just read the SBF piece and looking forward to reading more. 

EA is great, but I think it could use more and better external scrutiny. A lot of the criticism it gets right now is either silly (e.g., "this is just a way to make billionaires more powerful") or not especially helpful (e.g., "utilitarianism is obviously false"). Engagement that takes EA seriously but keeps a critical distance and isn't afraid to question the big players is really valuable IMO.

For some additional context, on Puck, Teddy describes himself as "covering power, influence, and ego in Silicon Valley", which is maybe a bit less EA-centric than this post makes it sound.  Here is a recent interview with Teddy about covering the "billionare beat".  And a quote from that interview about attempting to give people neutral ground facts about the activities of the rich:

Whether you want to be outraged by billionaires’ philanthropy, political spending or tax avoidance, or whether you think that billionaires are God’s gift to the green earth, you need the facts. And I think that too often, we're deprived of them.  So I don't really approach the beat as a critic or defender of the system. I just think that there's an alarming lack of fact-based reporting about it, and that's a damn shame.

Here is a quote about how he covers billionaire philanthropy:

Much of the tech billionaire set is very thin-skinned about some of the questions that I ask. I don't say that necessarily as a criticism, but I think that lots of them think that the billionaire beat itself puts them inherently on the defensive.

Take the topic of philanthropy, which is something I write about a lot. I think a lot of wealthy people are not used to serious philanthropy journalism, as a concept. So the very idea that someone could be asking questions like, “How is your charitable enterprise structured?” Or, “How much money did you give away to this cause?” Or, “What is your net worth, and how is that reflected or not reflected in the amount of money you give away?”

They see those questions as a fundamental threat, not because they believe that they're unfair questions, but because the entire premise of the question is something that's foreign to them. They think about philanthropy as almost above criticism, above journalism. Like, “Yeah you can critique my business record, but don't critique what I'm doing for the kids.”

I think that misses the forest for the trees to some extent, when there's obviously a raging debate in this country about inequality and about whether the wealthy should be as wealthy as they are. I see philanthropy journalism as essential to answering those questions. They might disagree, but I don't work for them.

Here are two (unpaywalled) articles of Teddy's from the past year about big EA donors:

FWIW, I found the interview with SBF to be quite fair, and imho it presented Sam in a neutral-to-positive light (though perhaps a bit quirky). Teddy's more recent reporting/tweets about Sam also strike me as both fair and neutral to positive.

Thanks, Jackson! I think the interview with me you shared helps — I am indeed EA-sympathetic, but yes, I see my primary "ideology" as pro-transparency above all else.

FYI anything you write to Teddy could end up in an article. I suggest you read some of his pieces before engaging. I worry this piece makes him sound more EA than he is, although of course he could be pivoting. 

Thanks, Teddy! Excited to read more of your work! 

I find the title of this post misleading.

 

The title says "A new media outlet focused on philanthropy". But in the body we learn that Puck is "focused on the inside conversation in Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Wall Street and Washington", which seems more accurate based on their website.

Yeah, fair enough — should've said "in part" ... Puck does a lot of reporting, on everything from race to Ukraine to crypto ... was thinking primairly about my own coverage, but you're right.

No worries. Can you edit the title?

I would like to see a some quantitative comparison of the impact that billionaires do. I suggest publishing a Billionaire Nice List, where you try for a reasonable ranking. I'd read that and I bet a lot of others would too.

Interesting! We did a fun "ranking" of billionaires' political influence but it was obviously very subjective. I'll add your idea to my list!

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