Jim Barksdale might have made his zillions at the helm of companies based on the West Coast, but when it came time to give away some of his money, he gave the early word to the East Coast media.
The New York Times' page-one coverage of Barksdale's $100 million gift to the University of Mississippi stoked the story as representing not only the fat check that Barksdale and his wife will sign, but also the "surge in Internet philanthropy." The Barksdale donation will endow reading programs for the state's children in kindergarten through third grade. The Times' Kevin Sack pegged it as a "transfer [of] some of the immense wealth being generated in Silicon Valley to a region that has largely been left behind by the vibrant new economy of the information age."
The Times, which scored a telephone interview with Barksdale while other outlets made do with released statements, pointed out that ex-Netscape prez Barksdale, 56, is one of "a growing number" of tech leaders who hit the Net jackpot and are now giving away gobs of money at relatively young ages. Others include Netscape founder Jim Clark (55), Infoseek founder Steve Kirsch (43), and eBay founder Jeff Skoll (34). The San Jose Mercury News' rehashed much of the Times' reporting and took time to cheerlead the fact that "others in the Valley have also given generously."
The Wall Street Journal noted that the Valley's recent rash of donations looks good only because its previous record had been so bad. Notorious for being a hotbed of skinflints, the Valley has its apologists. Entrepreneurs have been slow to give because they don't know how, Peter Hero, director of the Community Foundation Silicon Valley, explained to the Journal's Ann Grimes. "Not many had strong role models for giving and volunteerism growing up." Somehow, all of those without strong role models must have gravitated to San Jose.
Barksdale offered up a starker, and sadder, observation to the Times. "An enormous amount of wealth has been created in recent years and people don't know what to do with it that's productive," he said. "This is something they can do with it."