As social media, especially Facebook, has become nearly universal for web users, sites like Craigslist, which used to be the place to go for just about anything, have somewhat faded from prominence. But that hasn’t stopped people from pointing fingers at Craigslist when they’re looking for someone to blame for the slow decline of certain print media outlets.
Craigslist Founder, Craig Newmark, has long maintained his site is not responsible for the less prominent position of print media. Now, Newmark is putting money behind that message. Lots of money. Recently, Newmark donated $20 million to City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism. The donation, says Newmark, is to help revitalize the time-honored vocation of journalism.
“I think right now in this country, we’re in a kind of information war and people of good will need to stand up and do something real… The CUNY journalism school does a lot to push forward the practice of quality journalism and does so by giving opportunity to everyone so that’s a big part of what I’m doing…”
While there was no mention of the role certain popular websites have played in the loss of revenue many newspapers are facing, many in the media made the connection for Newmark. The argument: sites like Craigslist, which offer free or cheap classifies hurt print publications because they take away formerly robust income sources.
Newmark, in his dedication speech, admitted he’s a news consumer, rather than a news creator, and he hopes his donation will help bring more quality faculty and students into the program. He also maintained that Craigslist is not responsible for where print media is today, and that the industry was struggling long before his online classifieds site became popular.
It’s an interesting position for Newmark. While the donation to the concept of good journalism is certainly appreciated by the media, many of the outlets that wrote about the donation also included information about the prevailing idea that Craigslist has hurt the print media business. So, even as Newmark was ostensibly offering an olive branch to the media, many in the business were reminding anyone who would listen that Craigslist – and other online media – is hurting traditional media.
Newmark, though, could respond to that messaging by pointing to the tens of millions he’s donated to groups like Columbia Journalism Review, First Draft, ProPublica, and the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in recent years. Put simply, Newmark has a fairly blatant history of supporting the industry he’s being accused of hurting.
And, as he does so, Newmark is offering a challenge to others to do the same: “I’m putting my money where my mouth is… Other people with goodwill and resources should be doing that as well.” As final words on this topic go, those are certainly not too bad.
5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian is the founder of 5W Public Relations.