Audience Engagement Digital Publishing
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$15 million to strengthen journalism ethics: Craigslist founder tackles disinformation menace

Craigslist founder Craig Newmark will be donating $15 million to support journalism ethics. The donation will be divided between Columbia University’s journalism school ($10 million) and journalism think tank Poynter Institute ($5 million).

With disinformation flowing through social platforms and the news, it’s critical to modernize journalism ethics so that the industry keeps pace with the ever-changing digital landscape

Craig Newmark, Founder, Craigslist

“A deeply influential investment”

The donation will be used to establish the Craig Newmark Center for Journalism Ethics and Security. According to the Columbia Journalism School, the funding “will allow the Journalism School to further equip emerging journalists with tools to address ethical and security dilemmas that are faced in modern newsrooms.”

“The new resources will enable advanced instruction in digital and physical security, algorithmic bias, image manipulation and source protection in an era of high surveillance. Through convenings and published research, the Center will also educate working journalists in digitally safe practices, and help them better navigate today’s media environment.”

Craig Newmark’s generosity will provide an enduring and deeply influential investment in journalism. At a time of disinformation campaigns and attacks on journalists online and off, the Center and faculty chair will send a powerful message and will bolster a free and ethical press that enhances our democratic society.

Steve Coll, Dean of Columbia Journalism School and Henry R. Luce Professor of Journalism

Poynter Institute will establish a new center for ethics and leadership called The Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership where it will expand upon teaching, research, and coverage of media ethics.

The Center seeks to become the “industry ombudsman” covering journalism ethics as a news beat; conducting annual research projects on ethics, trust, and other issues connected to journalistic integrity. It will also organize annual meetings to facilitate collaboration and provide individuals and companies with consultation services.

“Making journalism stronger”

“Journalism values are under threat right now on multiple fronts,” says Kelly McBride, Vice President of The Poynter Institute, who will be leading The Craig Newmark Center. “The economic structure of the industry has eroded, social media has disrupted the way news is distributed and powerful voices dismiss facts by calling them fake.”

“It’s no surprise that there’s been a significant rise in the number of journalists and newsrooms who are seeking help with ethics issues. We want to provide journalism with the reinforcements needed to strengthen the news that underpins democracy.

We want to build up the next generation of leaders to guide newsrooms through the minefields. This is about making journalism stronger.

Kelly McBride, Senior Vice President at Poynter

Integrity: Cornerstone of journalistic credibility

A recent Gallup poll revealed that the ethics rating of journalists is split into roughly equal thirds among the public. Around 33% said that they thought journalists have very high to high, average, or low to very low ethical standards. Although at 33% the rating is not great compared to the other professions surveyed in the poll, it is a 10% increase compared to two years back.

A recent Knight Commission report on Trust, Media and Democracy called Crisis in Democracy: Renewing Trust in America noted, “The rise of partisan news organizations is producing more bias in news reports, and the increasingly blurred line between news and opinion in traditional mainstream media is contributing to perceptions of bias more generally.”

“Combined with the sheer volume of opinion expressed on digital media and cable news channels, and the rise in polarized politics, this blurring is leading to significantly diminished trust in news and information.’’

Trust in media is on an uptick this year according to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer. But there is still a lot more distance to cover when one accounts for the average ratings of journalists in the Gallup survey. A journalist’s credibility is influenced by his professional integrity. A strong grounding in ethical principles can guide them through the complexities of our age.

Steps to boost journalistic ethics can contribute to revitalizing trust in media. According to Kyle Pope, Editor-in-chief and Publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review, “We see this not as a sole solution to these problems, but as an important first step. While it’s unlikely we’ll figure out all the answers, we need to begin framing the questions.”