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Craigslist Founder Envisions Improved New Media

Craig Newmark is still keeping most details of his next venture under wraps but in an interview says it will "promote the best of the press," prominently featuring people with the "best reputations."

K.C. Jones

January 17, 2006

3 Min Read

Details about a new media venture backed by craigslist founder Craig Newmark are under wraps, but interest is growing as Newmark voices his opinions on traditional media and his vision for something better.

During an interview last week, the man who has been somewhat demonized for drawing classified ad revenues away from newspapers offered some details about his latest plans.

"The venture I'm involved in will find the best of what's out there," he said. "It will promote the best of the press. That means it starts with a level playing field. People with the best reputations will be the most prominent."

The team Newmark is supporting will include journalist and consultantJeff Jarvis and Upendra Shardanand, who has expertise in creating software that filters content to fit personal preferences. Newmark has experience weeding out people disseminating false information. He describes the project as providing more trusted news with more fact-checking to more people.

Far from predictions that he'll have a hand in destroying newsrooms and cutting jobs, Newmark said he believes his contribution will help make investigative journalism more profitable and save jobs. He said readers need the advantages that professional journalism provides, including bureaus that cover remote locations.

"I want to help accelerate the evolution of the press because right now, newsrooms are cutting investigative journalists, and we need investigative journalists," Newmark said.

He said revenue could be generated through micro-payments, either through a pay-per-view system or through subscriptions. He would not state how the money would flow from readers to journalists.

"I think the American press overall does a great job, and I remind my citizen journalist friends that there's no substitute for professional writing, editing, fact-checking, and research," Newmark said.

The greatest area of trouble is that the press, particularly the White House press corps, "doesn't speak truth to power," he said. "They hear a lie. They know it's a lie. They concede it privately but don't report it as such."

Professional journalism has higher standards in general, Newmark said, adding that a small number of journalists serve to remind that even the professional news corps fails to meet ethical standards.

"I could say there's a lot of blood on the hands of people who don't do their jobs," Newmark said.

He thinks that The New York Times is "showing some spirit again," but Jon Stewart's Daily Show is doing some of the best investigative journalism today.

"They trot out video showing Dick Cheney lying," he said. "They're showing overt corruption."

Newmark said that citizen journalism is evolving and that it contains good and bad. Political scammers promoting fraud represent one of the biggest problems with citizen journalism, he said. Wikipedia recently experienced what Newmark describes as "centralized disinformation campaigns."

"That will be ended because there are far more trustworthy people than bad," he said, citing Slashdot as a current example of successful moderating.

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