Communications Crisis at the Red Cross

Definition of a communications crisis: when ProPublica launches a crowdsourced initiative to report stories about mismanagement at your organization. That’s what happened today to the American Red Cross.

ProPublica’s “Red Cross Reporting Initiative” offers journalists “everything you need to do it: potential sources, documents, and step-by-step tips.” Among the tips: how to file open records requests with state and local emergency offices for emails sent about the Red Cross during a disaster.

“The best way to dig into the reality of the Red Cross is to report from places that have found themselves in need of the group’s aid,” ProPublica said. “And to do that takes more than one news organization in Manhattan.”

This comes after a brutal couple years of stories by ProPublica and NPR about the ARC’s alleged mismanagement of funds donated to help earthquake victims in Haiti (e.g., “How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars for Haiti and Built Six Homes”).

ProPublica is only one of the ARC’s challenges. Just last week, Sen. Charles Grassley released “a blistering Senate report” after a year-long investigation and accused the ARC of misleading Congress. According to ProPublica and NPR, the Senate report “raises fundamental questions about the integrity of the country’s most storied charity and its stewardship of donors’ dollars.”

After the ARC’s long failure to stop the bleeding on this story, it’s hard to see how this ends without a thorough housecleaning.

Red Cross