Craigslist founder Craig Newmark is betting big on the future of journalism and the education that can train future reporters. Through his nonprofit organization Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the New Jersey native will donate $20 million to the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, which will change its name to The Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at City University of New York.
“We are living in a time of crisis,” Newmark said in an interview, referencing eroding trust in media and the spreading of misinformation. He went on to say he believes well-trained journalists can help resolve these problems.
As the only publicly supported journalism graduate school in the Northeast, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism can open up doors for people who otherwise may not be able to afford higher education and the access that comes with it. This goal becomes challenging when state funding continues declining, which CUNY Journalism School Dean Sarah Bartlett said is why Newmark’s gift is so important. “It really cements our future,” Bartlett said.
The students come from all sorts of different backgrounds, which is another aspect of the school that helped the billionaire philanthropist make his decision to give money. “You could say that they are the university for everyone,” Newmark said. This varied student body will help diversify newsrooms so they better reflect society as a whole. The CUNY Graduate School of Journalism comprises 17 percent African-Americans, 24 percent Hispanics and 13 percent Asians, with almost half of students getting scholarships, according to the New York Times.
Newmark’s $20 million gift follows past donations he’s made to journalistic causes and is the largest of those gifts. Newmark himself grew up in a family that struggled financially and sees a little bit of himself in these future journalists, saying that the school is “helping out people who, like me, really need a lot of scholarship help.” Newmark used scholarships to help him attend Case Western Reserve University.
The New York Times reports that Newmark finalized his decision after he met with Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism Director Jeff Jarvis and Dean Bartlett in the dean’s office. Newmark started attending journalism conferences a decade ago, which is how he met Jarvis. Some of Newmark’s past donations to the cause of journalism went to CUNY. He gave $10,000 to the school’s 2016 election coverage initiative and $1.5 million for a research grant that helped the school bring in an extra $14 million.
Newmark is making sure the money comes with no strings attached, other than wanting the school to help in his goals of promoting democracy and journalism. The man who upended the media industry by creating a go-to space for classified ad listings, craigslist.com, does have some of his own ideas for the future of media though. Poynter reports that he thinks people will have multiple news feeds tailored to them. “Any of us would choose news feeds and feel comfortable that what we were reading was trustworthy,” Newmark said. He added that each site would be fact-checked and edited as necessary, regardless of point of view.
By: Michael Eric Rosenthal