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