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April 18, 2005

Craig Newmark of Craigslist to Be Trust Panelist

Last week I was busy exchanging emails with Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, asking him to be a speaker at our A Wake Up Call: Can Trust and Quality Save Journalism? conference on August 9 in San Antonio.

He has accepted the invitation. Even though, many of America's news editors might not realize it, this is big news. At least it is for people interested in the future of journalism.

In my email to Newmark I wrote:

This conference is occurring in a special time in media history, and citizens, journalists, and academics need to hear from people like you who will be deciding what the future of the media will be, and perhaps what our democracy will be like. It is very important stuff.

Unbeknowst to me, just at about the same time Newmark and I were exchanging emails, Tim Porter of First Draft was taking notes at the American Society of Newspaper Editors(ASNE) convention. And for me, this is hard to believe, but it shows how lagging behind the news industry is. Porter writes:

One of the most telling moments of the hour occurred just as the meeting opened when Nachison and Peskin put a slide up of Craig Newmark and asked how many people in the room of several hundred recognized him or his name. Only a smattering of hands rose. A few more hands went up at the mention of Craigslist and its free classifieds.
Nachison reminded the editors that the competition of Craigslist didn’t grow out of a business model, but arose more spontaneously from Newmark’s desire to create a community of trust – the same trust newspapers are struggling to regain.
Newmark “doesn’t seem himself as competition,” said Nachison. “He started to build trust and to build community. He doesn’t see himself as competing against newspapers.”
The message here: In today’s media world the audience – and their money – follows trust and credibility, characteristics that evolve from authenticity, transparency and voice, rarities in our newspapers.

So my advice to news editors is for $49 get enlightened on August 9, your paper's, you own and our future might depend on that enlightenment.

Why should news editors and the rest of us know Newmark. Well read this item from a February edition of Mercury News SiliconBeat:

Newmark is intently interested in advancing the citizen journalism movement. Although his plans are still sketchy, he'll likely start with a personal financial investment. But his interest may eventually come to involve craigslist itself.
"As a consumer of news, I've learned that there's too much important stuff which isn't printed or which is distorted on the way out,'' he told us. "One example being news out of the White House. We need to fix it."
"We, meaning the public, need to evolve a trusted institution with lots of fact-checking that we can trust and that we can prove does provide honest news.''
Newmark said his own role would be behind-the-scenes: "I want to help other people do the real work. I'm no news man. I'm not much of a businessman. I'm just one persistent nerd.''
Then just as I was writing this Porter was giving us more information on Newmark and his possible future commitment to citizen journalism. Listen up editors, this is IMPORTANT.

Posted by Leonard Witt at April 18, 2005 12:20 AM