MTSU Free Speech Center welcomes $25K gift from Craig Newmark Philanthropies to boost 1st Amendment awareness

Oct 09, 2020 at 10:25 am by WGNS

Craig Newmark

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Internet entrepreneur Craig Newmark’s philanthropic foundation, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, known for funding the Craigslist founder’s longtime support of journalism initiatives, has given the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University a $25,000 gift to expand its programs and services.  

The nonpartisan public policy center, based in MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment, works to educate the public about the five freedoms they’re guaranteed by the First Amendment: speech, press, religion, assembly and petitioning the government.  

The Free Speech Center’s focus is on high schools and colleges across the country, building understanding of the First Amendment through education, information and engagement. 

“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.” 

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.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights.  

The center also directs the nonpartisan, nonprofit 1 for All educational project, focusing on ensuring that every high school and college student in America fully understands the five freedoms of the First Amendment. Its initiatives, detailed at, also build broad public awareness of the First Amendment’s continuing relevance. 

“We deeply appreciate Craig Newmark Philanthropies’ support for our national First Amendment awareness and education campaign,” said center director Ken Paulson. “Truly understanding the First Amendment is the critical first step in preserving and protecting our most fundamental freedoms of expression.” 

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 since allowed Newmark to contribute millions of dollars to various causes, including voter registration efforts, military families, consumer privacy rights and women in technology.  

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 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. 

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