At a time when technology is radically reshaping our world, the new journalism venture, The Markup, will help to illuminate how powerful institutions are using technology in ways that impact people and society.
Today, The Markup, a nonprofit news organization based in New York City, announced its official start and major backers. Key support includes a $20 million donation from Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies, $2 million from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and additional support from the Ford Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
The Markup is founded by Sue Gardner (Executive Director), former head of the Wikimedia Foundation, and Julia Angwin (Editor-in-Chief) and Jeff Larson (Managing Editor), investigative journalists who formerly wrote for ProPublica. They incubated the project with an investment from the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative.
"In a healthy society, there's an ongoing conversation about what's in the public interesta debate that includes legislators, regulators, the institutions of civil society, the private sector, and the general public," said Gardner. "We aren't having that debate right now about new technologies because the level of understanding of their effects is too low. That's the problem that The Markup aims to fix, and I am delighted to have Craig Newmark, and some of the United States' most prominent private foundations, join us to do this."
At the National Press Club Headliners Luncheon today, Newmark will discuss his philanthropic efforts to strengthen trustworthy journalism by helping to address the range of needs that affect the news industry. This work includes his support of The Markup.
"I'm proud to back The Markup and support people whose work I've followed and admired for a long time," Newmark said. "As a news consumer, I look for journalism that I can trust, and by producing data-driven, rigorously fact-checked reporting on the effects of technology on society, The Markup is helping to fill a largely unmet need."
"There are few issues more important for citizens to understand than the impact of new technology on our lives and society," said Alberto Ibargen, Knight Foundation president. "And there are few people better equipped than the founders of The Markup to bring a combination of journalism, technology, and business expertise to bear on telling that story."
Sue Gardner is the past head of CBC.CA, the website of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. She has a track-record of building organizations that achieve significant impact on the public interest, and of successfully protecting them against censorship and intimidation. Julia Angwin is a Pulitzer Prize winner and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist who previously worked at The Wall Street Journal and ProPublica. Jeff Larson is a data journalist, Peabody Award winner, two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and past recipient of a Livingston Award for Young Journalists. He previously worked at ProPublica and The Nation.
When Angwin and Larson worked together at ProPublica, their data-driven investigations included exposing discriminatory advertising practices at Facebook, bias in software that is used in criminal sentencing and algorithms that result in unfair car insurance pricing. They also uncovered evidence of domestic surveillance practices in the Snowden archives and revealed technology vulnerabilities at the President’s Mar-A-Lago country club.
"I'm excited to build a team with deep expertise that can really scale up and advance the work Jeff and I began at ProPublica," Angwin said. "We see The Markup as a new kind of news organization, staffed with journalists who know how to investigate the uses of new technologies and make their effects understandable to non-experts."
"People know that these new technologies are important and want to better understand their societal effects. We will help them do that," said Larson. "The Markup will hold the powerful to account, raise the cost of bad behavior, and spur reforms."
In the coming months, The Markup will hire two dozen journalists for its New York office. The website will launch in early 2019.
About Sue Gardner
From 2007 until 2014, Sue Gardner ran the Wikimedia Foundation, the San Francisco-based nonprofit that operates Wikipedia. Under her leadership Wikipedia's readership doubled and annual revenues grew from 1.5MM to 76MM. Previously she ran CBC.CA, the website of Canada's national public broadcaster, which she grew to become the most popular news site in Canada. She has been named a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum (2009), the Cultural Humanist of the Year by the Harvard Humanist Association (2015), the world's 70th most powerful woman by Forbes magazine (2012), and in 2015 she received the Nyan Cat Medal of Internet Awesomeness for Defending Internet Freedom, for leading the Wikipedia anti-SOPA blackout. Gardner is on the boards of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, Privacy International, Global Voices and Wiki Education.
About Julia Angwin
Julia Angwin worked at The Wall Street Journal prior to ProPublica, and is the author of Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance (Times Books, 2014), and Stealing MySpace: The Battle to Control the Most Popular Website in America (Random House, 2009). Angwin has a B.A. in mathematics from the University of Chicago and an MBA from Columbia University.
About Jeff Larson
Jeff Larson worked at The Nation prior to ProPublica, and was one of the core reporters on the Snowden archive, in partnership with the Guardian and the New York Times.
About Craig Newmark Philanthropies
Craig Newmark Philanthropies was created by craigslist founder Craig Newmark to support and connect people and drive broad civic engagement. The organization works to advance people and grassroots organizations that are getting stuff done in areas that include trustworthy journalism, voter protection, gender diversity in technology, and veterans and military families. For more information, please visit: craignewmarkphilanthropies.org.
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy.
About the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative
The Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative is a hybrid research effort and philanthropic fund that seeks to ensure that technologies of automation and machine learning are researched, developed, and deployed in a way which vindicate social values of fairness, human autonomy, and justice. It is a joint project of the Harvard Berkman-Klein Center and the MIT Media Lab, and is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Omidyar Network, the Hewlett Foundation, and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. If you're curious you can read more about it at: aiethicsinitiative.org.