The Financial Times puts on a conference each year called the Future of News.
Three years ago it was held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel at Columbus Circle. It’s fancy. Almost everyone was in a suit or heels.
Speakers that year included Stephen Adler from Reuters, Dean Baquet from the New York Times, Jeff Zucker from CNN and Campbell Brown from Facebook.
The headliner was Steve Bannon. It’s fair to say the audience was rooting for FT editor Lionel Barber to put Bannon in a corner.
The video is on the Internet and I’ll let you decide for yourself, but in the room it felt like Bannon bettered Barber.
At the coffee break I saw a guy who was standing alone, ignored by everyone else who was rushing to network.
He was in a casual shirt, khaki pants and sneakers. His badge was hand-written, a sign he hadn’t registered in advance.
I felt bad for him so I walked over and introduced myself.
“I’m Craig,” he said.
He said he hadn’t expected to come, but his flight to San Francisco was delayed.
I asked him what he was up to and he said he was renovating an apartment downtown. We talked about NYC real estate and contractors.
As the break wound down, a friend of mine, Peter Lattman, who used to be a New York Times reporter and now runs media operations for Emerson Collective, wandered over.
He greeted Craig warmly.
I took a closer look at Craig’s name tag.
I realized that Craig was THAT Craig, the Craig from Craigslist.
I still didn’t understand why he was there.
Three months later Craig Newmark donated $20 million to the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. The J-school was named after him.
According to Wikipedia, Newmark has donated $170 million to support journalism in the past five years.
So it turns out the person at the FT event that year who may have the biggest long-term impact on journalism wasn’t on any panel.
He was standing quietly in the shadows.