Craiglist's Craig Newmark gives Poynter $5 million for ethics center

The gift from the founder of craigslist is the largest in Poynter's history. It will help expand and deepen the institute's efforts to promote trustworthy journalism and counter disinformation.
Published Feb. 6, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — The Poynter Institute for Media Studies has been awarded a $5 million grant — the largest gift in its history — from Craig Newmark Philanthropies to establish the Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership.

Newmark, who founded craigslist, said in an emailed statement that "the Poynter Institute has been a leader in journalism ethics for decades now, so they're well-poised to become one of the go-to resources for solutions to the challenges journalists face in this digital age."

Poynter senior vice president and media ethicist Kelly McBride will lead the center as the Craig Newmark Journalism Ethics Chair. It will provide:

• Basic and advanced training on ethics practices for media organizations, including ethics sessions run as part of all of Poynter's leadership academies.

• Consultation for organizations in creating or updating ethics and leadership policies.

• Coverage of journalism ethics, including in-depth reports, an ethics newsletter, a regular "Ask the Ethicist" column and possibly an ethics podcast.

• An annual fellowship for a professional journalist to conduct research, write and teach ethics and share expertise with organizations nationally.

• An annual trust and ethics summit.

Craig Newmark Philanthropies offers grants to promote trustworthy journalism and counter disinformation, as well as to voter registration, help for veterans and their families, and other causes.

The grant to Poynter comes as inquiries to the institute about ethics in journalism are surging. Poynter president Neil Brown said it will help "promote something precious: independent, credible information that will help citizens successfully participate in our democracy."

"The idea behind (the center) is more than just reaching out to practitioners, but also reaching out to consumers of journalism who I think are more and more interested in how our stories get told, who's telling them, who's paying for them, whether there's bias or not," Brown said. "So I think it's become part of the cultural conversation right now. We felt this was a moment in time to expand our traditional work."

Poynter, a nonprofit training institute for working journalists, owns the Tampa Bay Times.

Newmark, who lives in San Francisco, is no stranger to Poynter or its mission. He sits on the Poynter Foundation board and has given money to support fact-checking initiatives including PolitiFact and the International Fact-Checking Network, as well as Poynter's Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media. In 2017, Craig Newmark Philanthropies gave a $1 million grant to the Poynter Institute to establish the Craig Newmark Journalism Ethics Chair.

Free classified ads that craigslist provides have been blamed for some of the deep losses of revenue the newspaper industry has sustained over the past two decades.

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Brown said the news industry didn't respond quickly enough to a wide array of changes brought on by craigslist and other digital media.

"That reaches beyond Craig Newmark to a lot of different sources," Brown said. "I know there are people who think that one person is to blame. I think the answer is more complex than that, and our relationship with him has been extremely productive and honest."

"I want to stand up for trustworthy journalism and stand against deceptive and fake news," Newmark said in a statement released through Poynter. "And I want to help news organizations work together to protect themselves and the public."

Along with Poynter, Newmark also is giving $10 million to Columbia University to establish a center for journalism ethics and security along with a professorship there.