April 17, 2005

Big Media to Craig: It’s on You, Dude

Al Saracevic, a business section columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, tells Craig Newmark that if Craigslist is going to take the classified ad money that used to flow so freely to the Chronicle and other newspapers, revenue that pays for the journalism the papers produce, then Craig has a responsibility to fill the resulting journalistic hole.

Craig says Al is right.

First Al to Craig:

“You shouldn't take the money and run. If successful community Web sites, such as Craigslist and Yahoo and even Google, are going to take over regional advertising dollars, they also need to give something back to society other than cheap apartment ads and funny, dirty personals. (Not that I don't love 'em.)

“Historically, the money spent on such ads helped subsidize a reporting mechanism that served as society's fourth estate. It was commonly known as a newspaper.

“If the revenue newspapers once subsisted on disappears, he who taketh the lunch money away shall also provide the watchdog function. And complaining about lousy school systems on your blog won't cut it. Nor will running the AP wire on your ‘news’ page.” (Emphasis added.)

Then Craig to Al:

“Al's right about giving back. … I'm trying to figure out how to help, maybe just a little, by encouraging people to preserve and expand what's right about mainstream media while encouraging the new stuff. There's a lot of good people and infrastructure in newsrooms and bureaus, like fact checkers and editors. How do we keep all that, and maybe increase funding for investigative journalism?” (Emphasis added.)

Craig himself cued the music that has him waltzing with the idea of getting into citizen journalism. He said in this interview in January:

“We may do something along the lines of citizen journalism. We don't know what that will be yet.” (Emphasis added.)

A report by Classified Intelligence that came out at year’s end concluded that Craigslist, with its mostly free classifieds (employers pay $75 per category listing) was taking directly or diverting upward of $50 million annually. That can pay for a lot of journalism, even at a place like the Chronicle.

The question here is the one Phil Meyer asks in his book, “The Vanishing Newspaper, Saving Journalism in the Information Age,”: Who, or what economic model, underwrites journalism if newspapers lose (or throw away) the franchise? [Read: Reading the Vanishing Newspaper: A Guide.]

Tags: , ,

Posted by Tim Porter at April 17, 2005 05:41 PM



Posted by: Craig Newmark on April 17, 2005 07:30 PM

Hi Tim:

See my post today at PJNet.org. Craig has agreed to speak on this very subject at our A Wake Up Call: Can Trust and Quality and Save Journalism? conference on August 9 in San Antonio. This is big deal. In my post about the conference I mention your splendid notes from the ASNE. Let's see how many editors show up in San Antonio to get a peak into their future and ours. Please spread the word to your readers. They can find more conference details at www.restoringthetrust.org. Thanks for the good work you are doing.

Posted by: Leonard Witt on April 17, 2005 09:36 PM

P.S. And Phil Meyer will be an opening speaker at the Wake Up Call conference, mentioned above. Sign up today.

Posted by: Leonard Witt on April 17, 2005 09:42 PM

Craig is being nice here (he's very good at that), but it's really not his job to "fill the resulting journalistic hole".

People in the newspaper business need to understand once and for all that when you have been shouldered to one side by the competition you no longer get to announce what 'the media' look like (or if you do people may be polite about it, but they are not really listening to you any more). The only way your voice will carry is if you either prevent newspapers' loss of influence and revenues from happening or you go over to the other side (where you may or may not be successful).

Posted by: ZF on April 25, 2005 11:11 AM

Thanks for the post, Tim. And thanks to Craig for being nice in his blog response.

My take: Be it on wood pulp or flat-panel screens, a free democracy needs the checks and balances provided by the fourth estate. Let's spend less negative energy on blasting newspapers for their sloth and ignorance and more positive energy on finding funding for the reporter who's going to attend the school board meetings of the future. That person has our children's future in his or her notebook. And I don't care if we use smoke signals to tell the world what we find.

Posted by: Al on April 26, 2005 02:03 PM

Craig says he'd like to "... encourage people to preserve and expand what's right about mainstream media while encouraging the new stuff." That's good.

I want to encourage St. Paul's newspaper to report both sides of political news. I'll do that by turning to the net, and telling them why.

Posted by: Dennis A. Abbott on May 11, 2005 02:01 PM
Post a comment