Using Breaking News Stories for Effective Altruism

by Gleb_T15th Mar 201643 comments



Summary: This post describes the steps I took to use a breaking news story to promote Effective Altruism causes in an op-ed piece, so that anyone can take similar steps.



Since many in the EA movement have excellent writing skills, we can take the opportunity of breaking news stories to write articles for public venues that channel attention to EA-relevant issues we care about. More generally, gaining and channeling attention is a widely-used practice among marketing and PR experts, bearing the technical term newsjacking, if you want to research it further. In this postm I want to show you how to use it for the sake of Effective Altruism.

First, remember that it should be done as early as possible in the life cycle of a news story for maximum impact for drawing people's attention to our ideas.


Some of you may have heard about the Wounded Warrior Project scandal that came to light five days ago or so. This nonprofit that helps wounded veterans had fired its top staff for excessively lavish spending and building Potemkin village-style programs that were showpieces for marketing but did little to help wounded veterans.


I scan the news regularly, and was lucky enough to see the story as it was just breaking, on the evening of March 10th. I decided to try to use this story for the sake of Effective Altruist causes. With the help of some timely editing by EA members other than myself - props to Agnes Vishnevkin, Max Harms, Chase Roycraft, Rhema Hokama, Jacob Bryan, and Yaacov Tarko - TIME just published my piece.


This is a big deal, as now one of the first news stories people see when they type "wounded warrior" into Google, as you can see from the screenshot below, is a story promoting EA-themed ideas. This is mainly about effective giving, but also bringing up the concept of EA itself and such EA organizations such as GiveWell, The Life You Can Save, Animal Charity Evaluators, and effective direct-action charities such as Against Malaria Foundation and GiveDirectly. Many people are searching for "wounded warrior" now that the scandal is emerging, and are getting exposure to EA ideas about effective giving.




Writing an article quickly and getting published in TIME may seem difficult, but it's doable. I hope that the story of how I did it and the steps I lay out, as well as the template of the actual article I wrote, will encourage you to try to do so yourself. Remember to be careful when you do so in what exactly you're spreading - it's important to frontline EA-themed effective giving ideas rather than the EA movement itself, to prevent non-value aligned people from flooding the movement. However, as I did, it's quite appropriate to leave bread crumbs in the piece that would lead people to EA.


Specific Steps


1) The first step is to be prepared mentally to find a relevant story and be vigilant about scanning the headlines for any story that is relevant to EA causes. The story I found was about a scandal in the nonprofit sector, a breaking news story that occurs at regular intervals. But a news story about mad cow disease spreading spreading from factory farms might be a good opportunity to write about Animal Charity Evaluators, or a news story about the Zika virus might be a good opportunity to write about how we still haven't killed off malaria (hint hint for any potential authors).


2) Once you find a story, decide what kind of angle you want to write about, write a great first draft, and get it edited. You are welcome to use my TIME piece as an inspiration and template. I can't stress getting it edited strong enough, the first draft is always going to be only the first draft. You can get friends to help out, but also tap EA resources such as the EA Editing and Review FB group, and the .impact Writing Help Slack channel. Get multiple sets of eyes on it, and quickly. Ask more people than you anticipate you need, as some may drop out. For this piece, for example, I wrote it on the morning and early afternoon of Friday March 11th, and was lucky enough to have 6 people review it by the evening, but 10 people committed to actually reviewing it - so don't rely on all people to come through. 


3) Decide what venues you will submit it to, and send out the piece to as many appropriate venues as you think are reasonable. Here is an incomplete but pretty good list of places that accept op-eds. When you decide on the venues, write up a pitch for the piece which you will use to introduce the article to editors at various venues. Your pitch should start with stating that you think the readers of the specific venue you are sending it to will be interested in the piece, so that the editor knows this is not a copy-pasted email but something you specifically customized for that editor. Then continue with 3-5 sentences summarizing the article's main points and any unique angle you're bringing to it. Your second paragraph should describe your credentials for writing the piece. Here's my successful pitch to Time:



Good day, 


I think TIME readers will be interested in my timely piece, “Why The Wounded Warrior Fiasco Hurts Everyone (And How To Prevent It).” It analyzes the problems in the nonprofit sector that lead systematically to the kind of situation seen with Wounded Warrior. Unlike other writings on this topic, the article provides a unique angle by relying on neuroscience to clarify these challenges. The piece then gives clear suggestions for how your readers as individual donors can address these kinds of problems and avoid suffering the same kind of grief that Wounded Warrior supporters are dealing with. Finally, it talks about a nascent movement to reform and improve  the nonprofit sector, Effective Altruism. 


My expertise for writing the piece comes from my leadership of a nonprofit dedicated to educating people in effective giving,  Intentional Insights. I also serve as a professor at Ohio State, working at the intersection of history, psychology, neuroscience, and altruism, enabling me to have credibility as a scholar of these issues. I have written for many popular venues, such as The Huffington Post, Salon, The Plain Dealer, Alternet, and others, which leads me to believe your readership will enjoy my writing style.

Hope you can use this piece!



4) I bet I know what at least some of you are thinking. My credentials make it much easier for me to publish in TIME than someone without those credentials. Well, trust me, you can get published somewhere :-) Your hometown paper or university paper is desperately looking for good content about breaking stories, and if you can be the someone who provides that content, you can get EA ideas out there. Then, you can slowly build up a base of publications that will take you to the next level.

Do you think I started with publishing in The Huffington Post? No, I started with my own blog, and then guest blogging for other people, then writing op-eds for smaller local venues which I don't even list anymore, and slowly over time got the kind of prominence that leads me to be considered for TIME. And it's still a crapshoot even for me: I sent out more than 30 pitches to editors at different prominent venues, and a number turned down the piece, before TIME accepted it. When it's accepted, you have to let editors at places that prefer original content, which is most op-ed venues, who get back to you and express interest, know that you piece has already been published - they may still publish it, or they may not, but likely not. So the fourth step is to be confident in yourself, try and keep trying, if you feel that this type of writing is a skill that you can contribute to EA causes.


5) There's a fifth step - repurpose your content at venues that allow republication. For instance, I wrote a version of this piece for The Life You Can Save blog, for the Intentional Insights blog, and for The Huffington Post, which all allow republication of other content. Don't let your efforts go to waste :-)




I hope this step-by-step guide to using a breaking story for Effective Altruism will encourage you to try it. It's not as hard as it seems, though it requires effort and dedication. It helps to know how to write well for a broad public audience in promoting EA ideas, which is what we do at Intentional Insights, so email me at if you want training in that or to discuss any other aspects of marketing EA ideas broadly. You're also welcome to get in touch with me if you'd like editing help on an EA-themed newsjacking effort. Good luck spreading EA ideas broadly!


P.S. This article is part of the EA Marketing Resource Bank project lead by Intentional Insights and the Local Effective Altruism Network, with support from The Life You Can Save.


EDIT: Retitled the post based on feedback from Owen and Stefan below.


36 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 6:58 AM
New Comment

This looks like potentially a nice approach, but I have some caveats:

I find the term 'newsjacking' quite distasteful. The obvious connection to 'hijacking' implies being scheming and manipulative to get coverage of something which is a different topic from what's in the news. I think what you want to be doing here is rather emphasising a legitimate angle on breaking stories. There are a few reasons to avoid the term.

First, it may give the wrong impression to outsiders coming across internal discussions such as this forum. I'm sure some people would be put off joining a community which appears to be openly and happily manipulative.

Second, it may encourage you to start actually scheming to get your topic in for stories where it's really quite a stretch. I think succeeding in getting coverage in such cases could be desirable for some actors, but might be negative for clusters of ideas such as effective altruism which depend on sincere desires to help. This is because if it's a stretch to relate the ideas to the news, this will be visible to readers, and may be perceived as agenda-pushing rather than sincere. This could lower people's inclinations towards the cluster of ideas around effective altruism (even while increasing their awareness). I argued in this working paper that that will often be a bad trade-off.

Owen I think these are important caveats.

One further risk is that message you are trying to convey has to be stretched or even distorted to be made relevant to the original story. This is a result of the "hijacking" approach, and unfortunately I think it's evident in this piece.

The problem with Wounded Warriors as I understand it, is not that their proposed projects were not likely to be helpful (I haven't seen evidence that would help me answer that), but that people in the organisation mis-spent funds, and did not use them according to the charities own stated aims. So the problem here is not whether Wounded Warriors are engaged in effective interventions, but that people within the organisation diverted money from interventions and spend it on luxury flights and accommodation for its staff.

It seemed to me that the characterisation of effective altruism groups in the Time piece as organisations "pushing the nonprofit sector to become more transparent and accountable" is indistinguishable from Charity Navigator and others who are concerned with overhead as a metric of effectiveness. If we dilute the notion of an effective charity to one that has been vetted for financial transparency and accountability, we really lose the key message of how much different interventions vary in their impact.

For an example of how this can lead to opposite conclusions than EA reasoning: most EAs would agree it would be better for the world if programs like Scared Straight or Playpumps were bad at delivering their programs, since their programs have a negative impact. I expect it would be overall negative to deliver the message that finding an organisation with low overheads is both necessary and sufficient to ensuring your donation has a positive impact. I imagine that wasn't your aim here Gleb, but it's very much how it reads to me, probably as a result of the need to stay relevant to the news story you were tailing.

Bernadette, these are excellent points, and the risk of distortion is real. However, I think what you saw in this column is not a bug, but a feature :-)

First, the Wounded Warrior Project was indeed not focused on creating effective interventions, but instead on creating Potemkin-like programming that was more oriented toward getting good numbers for reports that assisted fundraising efforts rather than helping veterans, as shown in this piece. For instance, here's a quote from the piece:

The same push for numbers hit a program that brings wounded veterans together for social events. Former staff members said they had less time to develop therapeutic programs and so relied on giving veterans tickets to concerts and sporting events. To fill seats, they often invited the same veterans. “If the same warrior attends six different events, you could record that as six warriors served,” said Renee Humphrey, who oversaw alumni outreach in Southern California for about four years. “You had the same few guys who loved going to free events.”

I think it's a bit unfair to read my comments about effective altruism groups as simply organizations "pushing the nonprofit sector to become more transparent and accountable." This was a shorthand description based on the limited number of words allowed in any op-ed. It should be read in light of my earlier comments in the article about what it means to be transparent and accountable, namely "take the perspective of a savvy investor and research donation options to make sure you do the most good per dollar donated." This is the essence of EA, and makes it quite distinguishable from Charity Navigator and others. I hope this clarifies the situation, and I see how that misunderstanding can arise if there was a lack of awareness about the word limitations on the piece :-)

I also think there might be a mismatch of expectations. The piece itself aims to bridge the inferential gap between people who right now might not even bother to do research on their donations, and persuade them to considering effective giving. It's really important to remember that what I'm doing here, and what Intentional Insights does as a whole, is less about explicitly promoting EA but about promoting EA-themed effective giving, to prevent the danger of flooding the EA movement with non-value aligned newcomers.

As you can see, there's only a paragraph there about the EA movement, and it's not pushed heavily as the solution to all nonprofit problems, but as one way of doing so. Those who are intrigued by our data-driven, utilitarian approach and check out the movement will already be likely to be value-aligned. Others who are not so interested in the movement itself can go to the individual charities and charity evaluators cited in the piece.

Hope that clarifies the issues you raised, and thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

I don't think it's about mismatched expectations so much as I have a different assessment than you do of how much this piece is likely to promote effective giving.

If your intention was to promote consideration of impact, or recipient focussed donation behaviour, then I think this article misses that mark. Sure, the information might be there 15 paragraphs deep in one of a dozen links, but it's not conveyed to me - even as an interested reader versed in effective altruism ideas.

If indeed your article was intended by you to promote Charity Navigator style research with the hope it will nudge people towards the idea of impactful giving (which is what I take you to mean by saying that flattening out of the message is "a bug not a feature"), then I respectfully disagree that such an approach will in expectation increase effective giving.

If your intention was to promote consideration of impact, or recipient focussed donation behaviour, then I think this article misses that mark. Sure, the information might be there 15 paragraphs deep in one of a dozen links, but it's not conveyed to me - even as an interested reader versed in effective altruism ideas.

I think there's a miscommunication somewhere. In the sixth paragraph of the article, I stated that people should "take the perspective of a savvy investor and research donation options to make sure you do the most good per dollar donated." To me, that's the essence of EA. Would you disagree?

I respectfully disagree that such an approach will in expectation increase effective giving.

If so, I guess we will have to agree to disagree then.

Fortunately, there is an easy way of figuring out whose opinion is closer to the mark. One of the metrics Intentional Insights tracks is whether people clicked from our article to the website of the direct action charities described in the piece. If your opinion is correct, then we will not see clicks, as people will not be persuaded that EA-style effective giving is a worthwhile area. If my take is correct, then there will be some clicks, since people will be persuaded of the value of AMF and GiveDirectly. I'll check with AMF and GiveDirectly in a couple of weeks to see what the click-through numbers were, and we'll find out. Stay tuned!

Another piece of evidence supporting the fact that EA is a key take-away from the piece is how The Chronicle of Philanthropy described my piece:

I agree that maximising the good done with every effort is the essence of EA; I disagree that the wording and structure of your piece communicated that, even with those words included.

There's a tendency for people who do a lot of academic writing to assume that every sub-clause and every word will be carefully read and weighed by their readers. We agonise for months over a manuscript, carefully selecting modifiers to convey the correct levels of certainty in our conclusions or the strength of a hypothesis. In reality even the average academic reader will look at the title, scan the abstract and possibly look a figure and the concluding sentences.

Communicating complex ideas in a short piece is really hard to do, and if the less concrete the link between the message you want to convey and the topic you are trying to shoehorn that message into, the harder it is to avoid distorting your message. You could seek feedback from people who aren't already aware of what you're trying to communicate, but that's likely to be very hard to do in the time frame needed for a current news story.

If you want a measure of success, I think you need a much better end point than website views, which is a) subject to a wide range of confounders and b) only a proxy for the thing you are trying to achieve.

In reality even the average academic reader will look at the title, scan the abstract and possibly look a figure and the concluding sentences.

I think we might have different perspectives about academic readers

I think you need a much better end point than website views

This seems a bit contradictory to your previous statement about the average reader. I propose that if someone actually takes the time to click to GiveWell etc., this indicates a measure of interest and willingness to pay the resource of attention and time.

In fact, InIn measures its effectiveness in marketing EA-themed ideas about effective giving to a broad audience through its success in drawing the awareness of non-EA members to: EA ideas, such as researching charities, comparing their impact before donating, and expanding their circles of compassion; EA meta-charities that provide evaluations of effective charities; finally, effective direct-action charities themselves. In doing so, InIn works on a relatively neglected area of the EA nonprofit sales funnel, the key first stage of potential donor awareness of the benefits of EA ideas and charities. We then hand off the donors to EA meta-charities and direct-action charities for the latter stages of the sales funnel, which they have more capacity and expertise to handle. The metrics we use here are the exposure of people to our content, the number of those who are exposed who then click from our content to the websites of EA meta-charities and direct-action charities, the number of those people who then engage actively with the nonprofit by signing up to their newsletter, and finally donating. Naturally, each step is progressively harder to track, and the EA charities themselves are responsible for the last two steps.

The EA charities are grateful for the hard work we do, and applaud our efforts. Hopefully, that gives you some more context. My apologies for not sharing this context earlier :-)

We may have different perspectives on academic readers: I'm a relatively junior medical researcher. Three of my papers have over 100 citations. The view I expressed here is the one shared by my Principal Investigator (a professor at Oxford University who leads a multi-million pound international research consortium, and has an extensive history of publishing in Nature and Science). Humanities and medical research are likely to have some differences, but when fewer than 20% of humanities papers are thought to be cited at all, I'm not sure that supports humanities papers being read more extensively.

I don't see any contradiction between saying:

  1. I believe that, at the level a general reader will engage with it, this piece distorts the ideas of effective giving towards the damaging 'good charities have low overhead' meme, and will not in expectation increase donations to EA charities
  2. In order to show the contrary, you need a more concrete endpoint that website clicks.

No matter how many steps there are between an action an an endpoint, the only robust way to show an association between them is to include measurements of the end point you care about: surrogate markers are likely to lead your astray. For instance, I don't give much weight to a study showing drug Y lowers serum protein X, even though high levels of serum protein X are associated with disease Z. To prove itself worthwhile, the drug companies need to actually show that people on drug Y have lower rates of disease Z, or better yet, deaths from disease Z. Drug companies complain about and manipulate these principles all the time, because solid endpoints are take more time, effort and money to measure, and their manipulation around them has cost lives. (See the diabetic medication glipizide: short terms studies showed it decreasee blood sugar in diabetics - an outcome thought to improve their mortality - but longer term data showed that it makes people taking it more likely to die.)

Of course you're free to measure your work however you choose: I would personally be unconvinced by website traffic, and if you are aiming to convince evidence minded people of your success I think you'd do well to consider firm endpoints or at least a methodology that can deal with confounding (though that is definitely inferior to not being confounded in the first place).

At any rate, that's enough on this from me.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Maybe there's a difference between our academic backgrounds. I come from the perspective of a historian of science at the intersection of psychology, neuroscience, behavioral economics, philosophy, and other disciplines. I have a couple of monographs out, and over 20 peer-reviewed articles (over 60 editor-reviewed pieces). Since my field intersects both social sciences and humanities, I speak from that background.

Regarding website visitors, it's important to measure what is under our organization's control. We can control what we do, namely get visitors to the websites of effective charities. We know that getting such visitors there is crucial to those visitors then converting into donors, and we can have statistics showing that. For instance, 12% of the visitors to The Life You Can Save website from InIn articles then become donors to effective charities through TLYCS website.

However, we can't control that, and it would not be helpful to assess that on a systematic basis, beyond that base rate. The importance of constant measurement is to show us what we can do better, and the only thing we can control is whether we get people to TLYCS website or to other charities. Does that make sense?

Not really I'm afraid. That reasoning seems analogous to the makers of glipizide saying: we know lowering blood sugar in diabetics decreases deaths (we do indeed have data showing that) and their drug lowers blood sugar, so they don't need to monitor the effect of their drug on deaths. Your model can be faulty, your base statistics can be wrong, you can have unintended consequences. Glipizide does lower blood sugar, but if you take it as a diabetic, you are more likely to die than if you don't.

It would also be like the Against Malaria Foundation neglecting to measure malaria rates in the areas they work. AMF only distribute nets, but they don't actually care about (or restrict themselves to monitoring) how many people sleep under bed nets. The bed net distribution and use only matters if it translates to decreased morbidity and mortality from malaria.

If you are sharing information because you want to increase the flow of money to effective charities, and you don't measure that, then I think you are hobbling yourself from ever demonstrating an impact.

Bernadette, I'm confused. I did say we measured the rate of conversion from the people we draw to the website of charity evaluaters like TLYCS. What I am saying is what we take credit for, and what we can control.

I want to be honest in saying that we can't take full credit for what people do once they hit the TLYCS website. Taking credit for that would be somewhat disingenuous, as TLYCS has its own marketing materials on the website, and we cannot control that.

So what we focus on measuring and taking credit for is what we can control :-)

Your comment above indicated you had measured it at one time but did not plan to do so on an ongoing basis: "However, we can't control that, and it would not be helpful to assess that on a systematic basis, beyond that base rate" That approach would not be sensitive to the changing effect size of different methods.

That's a good point, I am updating toward measuring it more continuously based on your comments. Thanks!

Owen, I hear you about the term!

I use it because it's actually the technical term for this sort of activity, but other EAs have found the term somewhat distasteful as well. There's a trade-off to be made between using a technical term that some non-experts find distasteful, and using a more friendly term. That's one reason why CT scans were not called "intense X-ray" machines so we certainly have historical precedents for this :-)

Do you think using a more friendly, non-technical term would be better for this activity? If so, what suggestions do you or others have?

Gleb, I think that you should think a bit more about exactly what terms to use and for what reason in general. Cf the previous discussion about "softcore EA". Provocative metaphors are generally to be avoided in sensitive areas.

Good thought, Stefan, thanks for identifying the meta-issue here. I think I didn't notice the possibly provocative nature of the term simply because I learned it in the context of acquiring expertise on marketing, and took it in as just the specific technical term used there. Probably a bit of a curse of knowledge for me on not identifying the possible pejorative connotations this term might inspire, and something to watch out for.

Back from the meta-level, for the object-level issue, perhaps a term like "using breaking news stories" instead of newsjacking would serve. I'll retitle the post.

I think that you want to be "selling", and that you for that reason come up with these eye-catching terms. Being selling or using eye-catching terms is not necessarily a problem, but you need to be cautious regarding which eye-catching terms you use, and in which contexts.

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This is a troll/bot. Mods, please take action. Also, how can I report posts?

I think you mean CT scans (X ray), instead of MRI (not X ray).

Thanks for catching that, edited it :-)

I agree with some of the comments, but the success of being ranked high on Google seems good and legit which supports that the method could work. Please do share the click-through rates on the links!

I just have some caveats about the the article. Some have been named already so I'll focus on your point about ' leaving bread crumbs'. Naming EA (with a link to the landing page) and linking to the major organizations isn't what I'd consider bread crumbs. How will it 'prevent non-value aligned people from flooding the movement'? The Chronicle of Philanthropy starts their update about your piece with 'The Wounded Warrior Project scandal should encourage more donors to adopt the tenets of "effective altruism"'. That makes it pretty clear what message the article sending.

I'd rather see just a link to GiveWell or so. People who are dedicated enough will pick up the bread crumbs.

I hear you about that concern! It was actually a topic of conversation on earlier articles that I wrote.

The challenge is how to attract value-aligned people without attracting non-value aligned people. Trade-offs like this are always tough, and it will always be a fuzzy line, of course. The key seems to be to avoid highlighting EA strongly, but instead having a paragraph deep in the article with a mention of EA, along with links to EA charities.

This is what we're going with currently, and we'll see how it works out.

Hmmm does that mean you're going to keep the current approach? As it stands it seems to 'encourage more donors to adopt the tenets of "effective altruism"'. That's not in accordance with what you're trying to do. Just giving you a data point that to me it's not subtle at all. Even if it's one paragraph it's about as close as you can get to directly promoting EA in a news article about another topic. And people seem to sense that. Also, if someone disliked the article or the method of spreading the word I'm pretty sure that would reflect badly on EA as a result. The paragraph implies that the article is written by someone who identifies as an EA.

I think that you can be a lot more subtle and the right people will still find EA. A link to GiveWell should be enough.

Yeah, tough balance to draw indeed. You know, I'll check to see what Kerry Vaughn thinks, I really appreciate his thoughtful approach to this matter.

Edit: double comment

I'm surprised that the comments and voting seem largely negative. I'm not sure if that's a response to the specific phase "newsjacking", the general strategy of borrowing news, or Gleb's particular application of that strategy. I hope there's support for the general strategy- EA has a long history of news borrowing and my impression is that it has been by and large successful.

I'd find it helpful to move the discussion toward guidelines we can use to determine when "news borrowing" is a good idea. My sense is that a guiding factor should be how sympathetic the people in the news are. This would suggest that charity fraud/behavior that most people would find really distasteful (e.g. Wounded Warriors) is fair game, news about a heartwarming but ineffective charity or a large ineffective gift (e.g. Batkid or John Paulson giving $400mil to Harvard) is ok but should be approached delicately, and disaster relief should generally be left alone (especially in the immediate aftermath).

Another very important aspect of the news borrowing strategy (at least at scale) is Search Engine Optimization. Basically, the more we have high profile sites like Time linking to EA orgs, content from those orgs will show up higher in people's search results. Disclaimer: I don't know a ton about SEO, it'd be great if an expert could write up some best practices for the movement. But as far as I can tell, news borrowing is perfect for SEO since as Wikipedia puts it:

"Search engines often use the number of backlinks [inbound links] that a website has as one of the most important factors for determining that website's search engine ranking, popularity and importance… The significance of Search Engine rankings is pretty high, and it is regarded as a crucial parameter in online business and the conversion rate of visitors to any website, particularly when it comes to online shopping… There are several factors that determine the value of a backlink. Backlinks from authoritative sites on a given topic are highly valuable. If both sites have content geared toward the keyword topic, the backlink is considered relevant and believed to have strong influence on the search engine rankings of the web page granted the backlink. A backlink represents a favorable 'editorial vote' for the receiving webpage from another granting webpage."

We have significant internal expertise within InIn on SEO. An aspect of the work of Intentional Insights is to improve the search engine rankings and Alexa rankings of EA charity websites.

More broadly, we're working on an EA Marketing Resource Bank, in collaboration with the Local Effective Altruism Network, and will plan to write up such information as part of the EA MRB.

I'm also not sure about the reasons for the downvoting, especially substantive comments such as this one. Would be curious to understand what motivates people to do so.

Further proof of this strategy's effectiveness: my original piece was picked up by other prominent venues, most notable The Chronicle of Philanthropy

One of the downsides of focusing on news events is that their life cycle is so short that even though you get a burst of pageviews at the time, the number of pageviews can drop to ~0 after a few days. I think this is an important counter-consideration when thinking about covering viral news events versus writing content that has more steady, durable value (such as Wikipedia pages related to the topics you want to cover).

I would be interested in estimates of the total time you spent on the process (from drafting the article to it getting published) as well as the total pageviews the article has received so far, plus the distribution of these pageviews (how heavily were they concentrated in the first few days after publication, and what is the steady-state rate of pageviews?)

As a general rule, holding the total number of pageviews constant, I value a wider distribution over time, since that reflects sustained interest rather than shallow, topical interest. For instance, I think it's better to get 1000 views spread evenly over a year versus 1000 views on one day and 0 for the rest of the year (one reason is that the trend line for the former suggests 1000 views every year; another is that topical interest tends to be less focused so the people reading the article are less likely to concentrate and imbibe it).

Another rule is that traffic through social media is more shallow than traffic through search or direct visits, since the latter reflect stronger intent to learn while the former is more of a passive activity. This is another reason why I would discount pageviews that came from social sharing (an exception is focused small-group sharing; what I am really trying to discount is social media virality).

Agreed on this downside.

The upside is that it's the only way to get EA-themed articles into major venues. Wiki pages are only for folks who are interested in the topic already. To get EA-themed ideas to folks who are not already interested in it, news angles are crucial. Then, these can link to more long-term content like Wiki pages or other EA-themed content.

In other words, this focus on news events serves a different and in many ways an orthogonal function to Wiki pages and other such durable content (called evergreen content in marketing lingo, if you're curious). So both types of content are needed.

We currently have plenty of evergreen content as a movement. We don't have content that goes to a broad audiences and attracts them to this content. That's what the breaking news articles do.

If you or anyone else is curious to learn more about the topic, I recommend this book.

Great work! Indeed, if I type "wounded warrior" in Google (with or without the quotes), the first non-ad item is your Time article.