December 12, 2016 Last Updated 8:21 am

Craig’s List founder donates $1M to The Poynter Institute to help establish ethics chair, program

With the million dollar gift from Craig Newmark, the Institute will establish the Craig Newmark Chair in Journalism Ethics in the coming new year

Unlike some in the business, I don’t blame Craig’s List for the demise of classified advertising in newspapers, I blame newspaper executives. Long before the appearance of Craig’s List, newspapers were slow to realize that new businesses were eating away at their ad revenue. Marriage mail, auto traders, real estate tabloids, they all hurt the retail and classified advertising – it’s just that the economy boomed in the late ’80s and into the ’90s, so who cared if some dollars slipped away?

So, I won’t point out the irony that Craig Newmark is giving The Poynter Institute a $1 million. He’s getting something named after him in exchange, and the he’ll hardly miss the money.

What bothers me more is that for decades we CAMs were the reason newspapers made so much money in the first place. At many metro newspapers, the money brought in by the classified ad department exceeded that of retail and national combined. Yet it was rare that a classified ad manager made their way into the executive suites. Instead, most of us eventually left the business altogether (I bolted for McGraw-Hill), with some among the first to join digital pure plays in order to compete with our former employers. It was an easy game, but I know of no one who got much pleasure in watching newspapers struggle against the new competition.

Today, many newspapers have abandoned the ad model altogether in hopes of being able to survive. A few, such as Gannett and GateHouse, have an ad strategy, but it depends on rolling up other properties, and doesn’t involve quality editorial.

It’s nice to see Newmark’s commitment to quality journalism, it’s just a shame that far too few newspaper executives understand that the foundation of their large newsrooms was the ad departments that paid for them.

Here is Poynter’s announcement of the gift from Newmark’s foundation:

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – December 12, 2016 – The foundation of Web pioneer and philanthropist Craig Newmark is giving The Poynter Institute, the global leader in journalism, $1 million to fund a major, multi-year initiative in journalism ethics. The Institute in 2017 will establish the Craig Newmark Chair in Journalism Ethics.

The gift from Newmark’s foundation marks the single largest donation from an individual foundation to the Institute since it was created by Nelson Poynter in 1975.

The gift will support a five-year program at Poynter that focuses on best practices of verification, fact-checking and accountability in journalism. Under the guidance of the Craig Newmark Chair, this program will build on the full range of Poynter’s teaching expertise.

Poynter will develop ethics certificates and badges to journalists and media organizations that commit to ethical decision-making practices. The Institute will host an annual conference on ethics issues over the next five years. The ethics chair also will write regularly on, the leading news and information site for the media industry, and provide ethics training across Poynter’s in-person and online curriculum. The ethics chair will also conduct related research and publish an annual white paper examining the state of ethics in American journalism. Poynter expects to make this ethics chair a permanent faculty position and will identify funding over the next five years.

“I want to stand up for trustworthy journalism, and I want to stand against deceptive and fake news,” said Newmark, founder of craigslist and the Craig Newmark Foundation. “And I want to help news organizations stand and work together to protect themselves and the public against deception by the fake media. Poynter’s the right place to do this work because the Institute has long been very serious about trustworthy news and committed to both training journalists and holding media organizations accountable.”

Newmark has long been a supporter of Poynter’s ethics program. He is a member of the Poynter Foundation board and has contributed funds to support the development of the 2013 book “The New Ethics of Journalism: Principles for the 21st Century,” edited by Poynter Vice President Kelly McBride and Tom Rosenstiel, president of the American Press Institute. Newmark has also supported Poynter’s Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media.

“This gives us the opportunity to build upon the ethics teaching that Poynter faculty, including Bob Steele, Roy Peter Clark, Keith Woods, Al Tompkins and I have done for years,” McBride said. “There’s a lot of new work to do and this faculty member will have a role in shaping the best practices in journalism for years.”

Ethics has always been part of the foundational skills that Poynter considers critical to the journalism practice. The Institute teaches fact-checking, reputable sourcing, verification, leadership skills and news literacy to reporters, editors, news executives, educators and news consumers.
Poynter will post the position in January, 2017.

“The need for credible, trusted information has never been more critical, as we’ve seen with the recent proliferation of fake news on social media,” said Poynter President Tim Franklin. “This gift allows Poynter to begin a much-needed expansion of its vital work with journalists in exploring the intersection of media, technology and ethics. Our goal is to grow this into a centerpiece of Poynter’s work in the future.”

In addition to developing its own programs, Poynter will work with a range of other media organizations, including the Trust Project at Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, the American Press Institute, Google and Facebook to identify and support the tools and techniques that deliver trustworthy news.

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