Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Interview Who?

One of the numerous influences on me last year, which helped inspire the 40 Days of Giving project, was Oprah's The Big Give. This reality show was a contest where 10 contestants travel the country trying to help people, both in personal ways and by performing fundraisers. The show got me started thinking about different ways that I could dramatically give ... and here we are, with me giving away my income to others for 40 days.

Yowza! It's amazing what a difference someone can make, isn't it?

Anyway, as part of the project, I have always intended to interview philanthropists, but I freely admit that between being a new father and trying to manage the logistics of the project (more on the logistics coming soon, but needless to say I'd like to be able to make my mortgage payment and buy food even when not having access to my income), I hadn't really put much thought into this aspect of things.

So I ask you, my modest handful of fans and friends, for some help. Who would you like to see interviewed as an example of charitable giving? While of course there are a lot of big names you can throw out, I'm actually looking for some more modest proposals ... perhaps even people that you know personally and can help facilitate introductions to.

At the top of my list is Oprah, who is probably the biggest name in philanthropy that I can think of. I, along with Denis Leary, am a convert to her ... though probably for different reasons (although I, too, am a fan of penis health). So today I went onto Oprah.com and tried to track down some information on how to get in touch with Oprah. I was hoping to send a hardcopy letter, because I feel like those are more likely to actually catch someone's attention, but couldn't find a physical address for Harpo, just a webform that could be sent in. So, here's the letter I sent to Oprah's people today, with crossed fingers:

Hello. I am an author working on a project called 40 Days of Giving: An Experiment in Charity, where I will be giving my entire income away for a period of 40 days. I am documenting the experience on:


http://40daysofgiving.blogspot.com/


The project begins on February 17, at which point I will be blogging daily about my giving experiences and research. I'll also be announcing some surprises which, I hope, will motivate others to give.


As part of the book, I am hoping to interview high profile philanthropists ... and they don't come much higher profile than Oprah. In fact, this project was inspired in part by Oprah's Big Give television series. I certainly know that it's a long shot, but it would greatly honor me if I could arrange an interview with Oprah to include in the book and on the website.


Regardless of Oprah's decision, thank you for your time and consideration. 


Sincerely,
Andrew Zimmerman Jones




In retrospect, I probably should have been a bit heavier on my credentials, so they knew I wasn't just some random blogger ... but I'm also not sure that Oprah's people would be particularly impressed by my science writing credentials, anyway. My thinking is that either the basic concept - a man gives away all his income for 40 days - will be of interest to her or not. If the concept earns a reply, then more details can be provided at that point ... but filling the original mail with a bunch of details won't do much to make the person reading it more likely to pass it along to Oprah.

Of course, part of the joy of this project is the opportunity to write on topics other than science ... but to do so from something of a scientific perspective, gathering and analyzing data, all the while helping make some other lives - and hopefully my own as well - a little bit better.

If you do have a suggestion for who to interview, just leave a comment on this blog post. If you actually have contact information for the person (or organization) involved, and don't want it posted for everyone to see, feel free to e-mail me at azjauthor@gmail.com.

I look forward to seeing the suggestions!