Saturday, May 07, 2005

So This is What They've Been Up to

The blog economy continues to expand. Craig Newmark, founder of is looking to get into online news: gets more than 4 million classified ads and 1 million forums postings each month, and Newmark — who no longer runs it but remains one of three board members — is often blamed for decimating classified advertising revenue at regional newspapers. But he says he has no desire to steal readers from mainstream media.

But he believes the reason why newspapers are losing circulation is that too many traditional journalists are willing to quote politicians and business executives even if they're blatantly lying — merely for the sake of perceived objectivity. He'd prefer an "open source" model of journalism where legions of volunteers act as writers, assignment editors and fact checkers to challenge mainstream journalists.

"People are looking for attitude and guts in reporting — not full-on gonzo journalism, but hey, tell us what you think," said Newmark, who described himself as having Whig values — strong on defense, fiscally conservative but socially liberal.

"Maybe Hunter Thompson had it right," Newmark said, referring to the late cultural icon whose rollicking, first-person narratives of drug addiction, the Hells Angels and the 1972 presidential election shook up the media decades ago.

Newmark isn't ready to unveil any new ventures, but said he's been brainstorming with Dan Gillmor, a former technology columnist at the San Jose Mercury News and founder of Grassroots Media Inc., and Jeff Jarvis, blogger and a former critic for TV Guide and People.

Newmark hopes the ideas take shape in time to supply voters with a "trustworthy" daily political report before the 2006 midterm elections. Young people, he said, particularly need credible online news, since the Internet is the top source of news for 18- to 34-year-olds, besting second-ranked local television by a 41-to-15 percent margin, according to a recent Carnegie Corp. study.