Craigslist founder continues charity at home
by Cornelius Washington
St. Anthony's San Francisco, a nonprofit organization that has served the poor and disenfranchised for many decades, recently received a donation for technological upgrades from one of the pioneers of online advertising.
Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist and CraigConnects, his philanthropic organization, presented a $25,000 check August 8, which will be used to create and install free Wi-Fi and electronic turbo-charging for the guests of St. Anthony's dining room, a facility that feeds thousands of people every day, and the clients of its Tenderloin Technology Laboratory, a space that provides free computer classes, personal tutoring and internet clinics, at all skill levels, including drop-in use, six days per week, free of charge.
The new service "switched on" last week, according to a post on St. Anthony's website.
In an interview, Newmark praised the nonprofit, even as he downplayed his generosity.
"I'm not a big deal, in any regard," he said. "The people who are a big deal are the folks here at St. Anthony's. They run a great cafeteria service that feeds so many people, and the technology lab really helps people out. We are doing new things today. It's the people on the front lines who deserve the real praise. I help, then, I try to help some more, based upon what people really need."
Newmark also said he's inspired by other tech leaders.
"I actually get inspiration from other people, like Marc Benioff," he added, referring to the Salesforce founder and CEO. "But, if you talk about the emerging civic engagement community, which is a very big deal, actually, I'm hoping to see a lot more of that from folks, including the people I work with at the White House. It's a big, serious thing. It's like taking the community organizer stuff, expanding it and doing more with it, and then, even more with it."
Newmark said that he also works with veterans groups such as Swords to Plowshares and Vets in Tech, which help veterans learn about the tech community and get jobs.
"I like working with Iraq and Afghanistan vets," he said. "The deal is that the American public is beginning to forget that we owe veterans. What's worse, we don't know that we owe veterans' families. So, I'm taking every opportunity like this one, to remind everyone that we owe vets, we owe their families."
When mentioning the White House, Newmark was asked about Barack Obama's presidency, which is winding down as he prepares to leave office in January.
"I think that the president has done a great job, under very trying circumstances," he said. "I'm looking forward to what might happen after his presidency. I think he'll ask everyone to get more involved with helping people out."
As for the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, Newmark stated, "I'm a Hillary supporter. My focus, this election, is on nonpartisan voting rights. The Declaration of Independence states that we are all equal, under the law. That means that everyone should be able to vote, and I'm putting a lot of energy into that."
When Craigslist took off in the late 1990s, it was a revolutionary idea: providing free and low-cost ads that potentially reached millions of people online. It soon rendered classified ads in newspapers, including LGBT papers like the Bay Area Reporter, nearly obsolete, drastically changing the advertising landscape and a once-potent source of revenue. For his part, Newmark dismissed such criticism.
"In my research, I've learned from the news economics people that there's been no evidence of that," he said. "This is an area wherein I am an outsider. I'm a news consumer, so, I talk to people who know stuff."
When given the explanation that LGBT news media is a small, but vital, part of American media, and the revenues generated by classified and personal ads made up a good chuck of ad revenue, Newmark stated simply, "I appreciate that."
Full disclosure: The writer uses the services at St. Anthony's Foundation.