Craig Newmark, Newspaper Villain, Is Working to Save Journalism

His net worth, according to Forbes, is $1.6 billion. Mr. Newmark brushed the figure aside. “My focus is on giving it away in a smart way,” he said, though he didn’t want to say how much he plans to give away. In previous interviews, Mr. Newmark, who owns about half of Craigslist, has asserted he is worth much less than people assume.

One thing is clear: He is not spending his money on Craigslist. He can’t remember the last time he got something off the site, although he said his wife used it.

“Craig doesn’t need to prove he’s someone by having possessions,” said Sylvia Paull, a media consultant who has known Mr. Newmark for 20 years. “His way of living mirrors Craigslist. For years people have been saying, ‘You’ve got to upgrade the interface, make it more interactive, add color.’ He just says, ‘No, I like it simple and plain.’”

Mr. Newmark has been a steadfast supporter of women in tech, and built a website for Ms. Paull’s networking group for women, Gracenet, back when that was a labor-intensive initiative. He also funds veterans’ causes. He has lingering guilt about not serving in Vietnam even though he knows he wouldn’t have been much of a soldier.

Contributing money isn’t enough. He shows up at symposiums, like a recent one in Berkeley, Calif. He told the audience that he traced the crisis in journalism back to the mid-1990s, when the speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, offered “attractive lies the press just couldn’t stay away from.” He criticized The New York Times for its coverage of the 2016 presidential race and offered general advice: “Don’t be a loudspeaker for liars.”

Afterward, the first member of the crowd to go up to him said he found it “kind of ironic” that the guy whose internet site had done so much to undermine newspapers was now funding journalism. For the umpteenth time, Mr. Newmark recommended Mr. Baekdal’s work.

Journalism in San Francisco is still in crisis. San Francisco Magazine just made clear its future will involve a lot less journalism and a lot more fluff. Many staff members have left.