Opinion Brief

Mark Zuckerberg's suspiciously 'well-timed' $100 million gift

Facebook's CEO is giving a fortune to Newark's schools just as a damning biopic about him hits theaters. Is Zuckerberg trying to buy some love?

Conspicuous charity alert: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is donating $100 million to Newark, NJ's worst-in-class public schools — and he's making the announcement on today's "Oprah Winfrey Show," along with Newark Mayor Cory Booker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). The remarkably generous gift won't squander Zuckerberg's fortune which Forbes just estimated at $6.9 billion, making him the 35th richest American, ahead of Apple's Steve Jobs. Some commentators, however, find Zuckergerg's timing, right before the release of an unflattering Facebook movie (The Social Network), a bit suspect:

The gift is remarkably "well-timed": Newark's failing schools "certainly need the help," says Josh Duboff in New York Magazine, but "it's hard not to notice the timing — or the venue — of Mark Zuckerberg's latest move." Next week's premiere of The Social Network will fuel up the legions of Zuckerberg haters, so bailing out a city he has no connection to, on Oprah's couch, sure looks like "the PR move of the month.""Mark Zuckerberg's well-timed $100 million donation to Newark..."

$100 million's a lot for a PR stunt: Sure, his massive donation seems "a little too perfectly timed," says Alex Moore in Death and Taxes. But "$100 million is a lot of cake," and "there comes a point when the gesture is so large it’s hard not to think it took some genuine commitment to get there." Besides, Zuckerberg doesn't really need to buy "PR adoration" — despite months of "negative press," people are still flocking to Facebook."Zuckerberg donates $100 million to Newark: More than just PR?"

Who cares if it's PR? Look, "let's skip the dime store Freud and celebrate Zuckerberg's game-changing gift," says Arianna Huffington at The Huffington Post. The story is Zuckerberg's generosity to Newark's children, and why they need it, not "the motivation behind it." So put down "the media long knives" for a change, and give the man his due."Troubled times: When Mark Zuckerberg's... generosity is not good enough"

Now it's Newark's turn: Zuckerberg's donation "is good news," certainly, says The New York Times in an editorial. Now Mayor Booker has to raise matching grants and implement the needed reforms (likely by expanding the charter-school system and funding a performance-based teachers' contract). As "hopeful" as we are about the Newark's new prospects, we all "need to be wary of shifting public responsibilities onto the shoulders of philanthropies" that can, and do, change their minds."Facebook and Newark"

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