'Let's not forget that Craigslist destroyed local journalism': not everyone is happy with the founder of Craigslist getting a school named for him after making a huge donation

  • Craig Newmark is donating $US20 million to the City University of New York (CUNY)’s journalism school, a move some journalists find ironic given how his company Craigslist helped wiped out ad revenue for local newspapers.
  • Journalists are sounding off on Twitter and Facebook and taking sides on either supporting Newmark’s funding or are concerned about the school being tied to his name.

Craig Newmark is most well-known for starting Craigslist in 1995 and moving millions of print classified listings online, sucking up lots of lucrative ad revenue from local newspapers in the process. Now he wants to fund the next generation of journalists.

Today, the City University of New York (CUNY) announced that Newmark has donated $US20 million to the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Along with his donation, the school will be named the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York-much like how universities like Arizona State University and Syracuse University have named journalism schools after prominent journalists Walter Cronkite and Samuel “Si” Newhouse Jr.

However, some CUNY alumni are venting their frustrations about Newmark’s funding in a closed Facebook group. While Craigslist did not single-handedly kill newspaper ad revenue, alumni are calling out the irony in naming a journalism school after the man who founded a company that went on to cost newspapers $US50 million in missed revenue in 2004 because of the so-called Craigslist effect.


Other journalists are supportive of Newmark’s funding, including CNN money and politics correspondent Cristina Alesci:

To be clear, Newmark has made other significant donations to journalism in the past, including a $US1 million donation to ProPublica last year and gifts to the Columbia Journalism Review and the Poynter Institute. Newmark is also spearheading a $US14-million initiative called the News Integrity Initiative that aims to improve trust and literacy in journalism. Facebook became a part of that organisation last year.

In an email letter shared to alumni, Sarah Bartlett, dean of the journalism school, explained what the school will use the money, noting that Newmark will not be involved in how funds are spent. “The annual income from the endowment will enable us to recruit additional faculty, continue to develop innovative new programs, support more student scholarships, supplement the work of the News Integrity Initiative to build greater trust in our profession and provide general support to the school,” read the letter.

She added: “As you have probably observed, over the last few years public funding for higher education has come under increasing pressure across the country. Given current fiscal trends in Washington and Albany, that pressure is likely to increase. In light of this mounting threat, it has become clear that to sustain our momentum we needed to secure an additional source of funding. Craig’s endowment accomplishes that.”

Later this afternoon, Bartlett sent out a second letter addressing concerns over the changes. One particular question was about about Newmark’s role in fuelling sex trafficking and child exploitation and why “the school made a ‘tone-deaf’ decision by naming ourselves after this man given the #MeToo climate?”

“Craig Newmark has not had a management role in craigslist for 18 years,” Bartlett said in the response. “The portion of the site that was exploited by sex traffickers was removed ten years ago in 2008. The company worked closely with law enforcement during those years to identify bad actors, and he has been personally singled out by the FBI for his help.”

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