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

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.


You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All