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Marc Benioff: We Need Journalism to Elevate Humanity

5 minute read
Marc Benioff is the owner of TIME and the chair and CEO of Salesforce

It’s a paradox of this moment in human history — we have a vast universe of information at our fingertips, yet we still struggle to understand the forces that shape our world.

The very technologies and social media platforms that were supposed to bring us together have been used to sow division and undermine our democracy. Power comes from “we the people,” yet public trust in institutions continues to decline. The free press that ensures transparency and accountability is under attack, here in the United States and around the world. We’re surrounded by unprecedented prosperity, but also shocking inequality, leading to calls for a new, more equitable and sustainable form of capitalism. Artificial intelligence can make us smarter, wealthier and healthier, yet algorithms increasingly decide the articles we read.

In moments of transformation like this, how do we ensure that we’re elevating humanity and not undermining it?

More than ever, the truth matters. Facts matter. Values matter. Whatever organization, business or institution that we’re a part of, we need to realize that we are not separate from the larger social issues that surround us. We have a responsibility not simply to make a profit, but to make the world a better place. We have an obligation to serve all our stakeholders, including employees, communities and our planet. When we do, each of us can be a platform for change and a force for good.

This includes a free and vibrant press, which helps us understand our world and the stories of our fellow human beings. We are inspired — and moved to action — by families grappling with the injustice of economic inequality, by entrepreneurs striving to use technology ethically and humanely, and by young activists demanding that we address the climate crisis that imperils our planet.

That’s why my wife Lynne and I decided to become the owners of TIME one year ago. For nearly a century, TIME has been trusted by millions of people around the world to tell the stories that matter most and to help us see each other. We see this commitment to telling the stories that matter and that shape our lives in TIME’s coverage, led by Editor-in-Chief and CEO Edward Felsenthal and a global team. Every week, that red-bordered cover is a call to action to shake off our complacency and face squarely the most pressing issues confronting our world.

Today, TIME is a leading publisher on digital and social platforms, with a global audience of well over 100 million, reaching more people every day than its founders could have imagined. With five Emmy nominations in the last three years, TIME has taken readers deep into the Amazon rainforest and far into outer space through cutting-edge digital storytelling. Next year, TIME will use sophisticated virtual-reality filmmaking to recreate Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic March on Washington. We’re investing in TIME’s newsroom and its business to ensure that both continue to thrive for the next century.

Lynne and I also have a deep appreciation for the power of a free and vibrant press on a more local level, in our own community of San Francisco. Eight years ago, we read a story in the San Francisco Chronicle about a boy named Rudy, a homeless fourth grader. Along with his parents and older brother, he spent nights in homeless shelters, huddled in bus stops and in city parks. In the mornings, he got up and took two buses to elementary school, tired and hungry. Rudy’s story shocked us and galvanized us, and we have since made support for homeless families a focus of our personal philanthropy.

Last year, I supported a ballot measure to levy a tax on San Francisco’s largest companies, including my own, to address the city’s homelessness crisis. A free press played a vital role during the public debate. When misinformation and false narratives began to surface, the press sought out the truth. Armed with the facts, voters were able to make more informed decisions, and we were thankful that the measure ultimately passed by more than 60%.

Our world has undergone countless transformations since the first TIME magazine hit the newsstands in March 1923, for a price of 15 cents. Whether in our hometown of San Francisco or wherever you’re experiencing TIME, none of us can know what changes will come in the decades that lay ahead.

What we do know is that the changes we seek won’t just happen on their own. They’ll only occur when we truly listen to each other and recognize that everyone – including a little boy, homeless on the streets of San Francisco – matters and deserves an equal chance to succeed and to live with dignity and opportunity.

These are the stories that need to be told.

These are the stories that we need to hear—and that should inspire every one of us to do what we can to serve all our stakeholders and to improve the state of our world.

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