Why is Mark Zuckerberg donating $100 million to Newark schools?

Summary:Am I just being cynical, or is the timing, scale, and nature of Zuckerberg's donation to Newark Public Schools just a little, well, off?

Is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, now richer than both Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt, just getting in touch with his inner philanthropist? $6.9 billion burning a hole in his 26-year old pocket? He didn't attend the Newark public schools (in fact, he graduated from the Phillips Exeter Academy) and yet this Friday is expected to announce the creation of a foundation for the struggling district on Oprah.

Yes, Oprah.

And yes, Friday. As CNet puts it,

...some critics are pointing out that the timing of the entire announcement is a little too convenient.

Friday...is also the day of the New York Film Festival premiere of "The Social Network," the David Fincher-directed cinematic retelling of Facebook's early days. It's an unflattering portrait of Zuckerberg as a selfish egomaniac, and even worse for Facebook's image, it has been pulling in rave reviews and early Oscar buzz.

I hate to be cynical and there are few districts in the nation that couldn't use an infusion of cash more than Newark. However, the timing of the announcement, coinciding with a high-profile return of district control from the state of New Jersey to the municipality of Newark, on Oprah no less, feels a little too staged.

At the same time, there is serious talk of a Facebook Phone. Although ZDNet Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan doesn't think it will amount to much, what better way to cement the Facebook brand with the young people who made Zuckerberg a billionaire (and who are increasingly looking elsewhere for social media minus their parents) than a huge donation to schools? Perhaps even more importantly, what better way to cement the brand with the parents who represent the fastest-growing group of Facebook users than to make the announcement on Oprah? It's not as if he's announcing it on Jimmy Fallon.

Don't get me wrong. $100 million is $100 million, regardless of motivation. However, I can't help but feel like the Newark Public Schools are being used as a publicity stunt. Do you agree? Talk back below.

Topics: Social Enterprise

About

Christopher Dawson grew up in Seattle, back in the days of pre-antitrust Microsoft, coffeeshops owned by something other than Starbucks, and really loud, inarticulate music. He escaped to the right coast in the early 90's and received a degree in Information Systems from Johns Hopkins University. While there, he began a career in health a... Full Bio

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