the san francisco bay guardian‘s editor, tim redmond, has been drinking something funny lately, resulting in him ranting against craigslist:
The problem with that is simple: When Craig comes to town (and he’s coming to just about every town in the nation soon), the existing community institutions â€“ say, the locally owned weekly newspaper â€“ have a very hard time competing. In many ways, he’s like a Wal-Mart â€“ yeah, landlords get cheaper real estate ads, and consumers find some bargains, but the money all goes out of town. And he puts nothing back into the community: He doesn’t, for example, hire reporters or serve as a community watchdog.
… because his paper is losing classified ad revenue. wah, wah, my business model is obsolete!
Anil Dash told him to jump off a cliff. Well, Anil was much nicer. And more eloquent.
Well, you know, who needs professional reporters when you have the blogosphere? ;-P
Who needs reporters when you have the blogosphere? Good question. I think we all do. And I think this nonsense about “old” and “new” media misses the point. There need to be people who are trained (and paid) to report on news and investigate corruption; if it’s all up to volunteers on their own free time, reporting will be far more limited. Not because bloggers can’t be reporters; some are, and do it very well. The medium — print or web — isn’t the issue. It’s expensive and time-consuming to properly cover, say, government and business, and if Craig was hiring people do do that, I wouldn’t care if they were reporting online or in print.
Assuming that people have the free time to be reporters without pay is elitist and crazy.
“Citizen journlaism” is a lot like open source software. It’s more abundant, flexible and cheaper but it usually lacks polish and suffers from mass amateurism. We do need professional journalists to deliver the hard-hitting investigative stories. But that’s not the bulk of content in printed news anyway; no, that’s mostly soft news that the blogosphere’s citizen journalists are adaquate at providing. That raises the hairy question of whether or not the readership cares enough about investigative journalism to continue supporting those who provide it.
But criticising Craigslist for finding a business model that make life hard for traditional print news entities is not productive. It smacks of the Music industry whining because people are sharing songs online instead of finding a way to leverage the Net to deliver their customers a better experience for which they would be willing to pay. No, it took Steve Jobs to come up with that innovation. Will the print news industry let themselves follow that path too?
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