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Craig Newmark Philanthropies supports MTSU Free Sp...

Craig Newmark Philanthropies supports MTSU Free Speech Center’s 1st Amendment work with 2nd $25,000 gift

The Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University is once again on Craig’s list after internet entrepreneur Craig Newmark and his philanthropic foundation presented a second $25,000 gift to help the center expand its programs and services.

logo for Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University

Craig Newmark Philanthropies, known for funding the craigslist founder’s longtime support of journalism initiatives, said MTSU’s Free Speech Center, which works to educate the public about their five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment, “plays a serious role” in preserving democracy.

The nonpartisan public policy center, based in MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment, serves myriad audiences but focuses on high schools and colleges across the country to build students’ understanding of the First Amendment’s guarantees of free speech, press, religion, assembly and petitioning the government.

Craig Newmark, Internet entrepreneur and philanthropist (photo courtesy of Bleacher+Everard Photography)
Craig Newmark

“A trustworthy press is the immune system of democracy,” Newmark said. “Protecting American democracy is an all-hands-on-deck mission, and the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University plays a serious role.”

The Newmark organization previously invested in the center’s work with a $25,000 gift to the Free Speech Center in October 2020.

Established in August 2019, the Free Speech Center at MTSU’s full resources include the unique First Amendment Encyclopedia, the world’s single most comprehensive free reference work on the first item on the U., the world’s most comprehensive — and free — reference work on the first entry on the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Available at https://mtsu.edu/first-amendment/encyclopedia, the encyclopedia serves almost 4 million site visitors per year.

The center directs the nonpartisan, nonprofit 1 for All educational project, which focuses on helping every high school and college student in America fully understand the five freedoms of the First Amendment. Its initiatives, detailed at http://1forall.today, also build broad public awareness of the First Amendment’s continuing relevance.

The Free Speech Center also publishes books, teacher’s guides, white papers, television shows and video content for students, educators and the public that illuminate America’s fundamental freedoms of expression.

“It’s essential that all Americans understand the critical role the First Amendment plays in protecting and enriching our democracy,” said center director Ken Paulson.

Ken Paulson, director, Free Speech Center at MTSU, College of Media and Entertainment
Ken Paulson

“We deeply appreciate Craig Newmark Philanthropies’ continuing support for our efforts to educate students and inform the public about these fundamental freedoms and their essential role in American society.”

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits Congress from making any law that establishes or restricts any religion, puts limits on speech or the press, or hinders people from peacefully assembling and complaining to or seeking help from the government.

Newmark, who began his career in the 1970s as a computer programmer, began what would become “craigslist” in 1995 as an email distribution list to his friends, alerting them to events in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he still lives.

He established craigslist as a web-based service the next year and added other classified advertising categories, then began expanding to other cities in the United States and Canada in 2000. The service now covers 70 countries worldwide and receives 20 billion-plus page views each month.

The site’s growth and revenues have allowed Newmark to contribute millions of dollars to various causes, including voter registration efforts, military families, consumer privacy rights and women in technology.

logo for the Craig Newmark Philanthropies foundation, established by Craigslist founder and Internet entrepreneur Craig Newmark

His Craig Newmark Philanthropies foundation has also focused its funding efforts on journalism, donating more than $173 million to media initiatives since 2015.

Some of the Newmark press-related recipients include ProPublica, a nonprofit New York City newsroom focusing on public-interest journalism; the St. Petersburg, Florida-based Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism training and research organization; and the City University of New York’s journalism graduate school, which now carries his name.

For more information about the Craig Newmark Philanthropies organization, visit https://craignewmarkphilanthropies.org. For information about the Free Speech Center at MTSU, visit http://freespeech.center. And for more on MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment and its programs, visit www.mtsu.edu/media.

— Gina E. Fann (gina.fann@mtsu.edu)

This screenshot captures the top stories at the Free Speech Center’s website on May 18, 2022. Click the image to visit the site.

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