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Jeff Jarvis on the Real Reason the Media is Going After Craig Newmark (thefastertimes.com)
106 points by dreambird on Sept 6, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 43 comments

Smokescreen. I like Newmark more than I like newspaper companies, too. And I know craigslist could be making hundreds of millions of dollars if it weren't for their pesky ethics.

But I don't believe for a second that this recent drama is related to craigslist's impact on the news business. The formula here is simple: the news media (and political candidates) likes eyeballs. Eyeballs like stories about sex. It would be professional malpractice for CNN not to run these stories.

And why should I feel sorry for craiglist about that? They walked right into this. Prostitution is illegal throughout almost the entire United States. Without those ads, their service isn't one iota worse for the vast majority of their users who aren't in contact with the sex trade. The adult services section of craiglist is practically a political statement.

Which, fine, but if you make a political statement, you steel yourself to handle the flak you'll get. If you make a political statement that involves flouting the law, you get to deal with law enforcement, too.

>Without those ads, their service isn't one iota worse for the vast majority of their users who aren't in contact with the sex trade. The adult services section of craiglist is practically a political statement.

I'm not sure... I mean, would San Francisco be San Francisco without Folsom St? I mean, maybe, I guess?

I mean, I think the weirdness we see in San Francisco goes along with the innovative culture we have here.

Now, is the same true of weird sex ads on craigslist and the rest of craigslist? I've really got no evidence either way, but I wouldn't dismiss it out of hand, either.

Don't underestimate the small-mindedness of the news media.

Why was the iPad over all of their covers? Because they think it's their salvation. Yeah, Jobs is good at PR, and yeah, it's a reasonable cover story, but why was it the cover story?

Why is craigslist the trumped up bogus sex scandal?

Because craigslist has revolutionized both licit and illicit classified ads, making them the most important advertising medium for the sex industry as well as babysitters, day laborers, and people with washing machines to sell?

Is it just me, or has 'the news' gotten worse over time? I entirely stopped following news and news media about a year ago. I'm always a little frightened by it when I see any of it poke through in places I still visit, like HN.

There is a good movie called "The Network". It is about a news corporation, and what they will sacrifice in order to get ratings. It is a bit old but the message of the movie is timeless.

One of the many great quotes:

Diana Christensen: I watched your 6 o'clock news today; it's straight tabloid. You had a minute and a half of that lady riding a bike naked in Central Park; on the other hand, you had less than a minute of hard national and international news. It was all sex, scandal, brutal crime, sports, children with incurable diseases, and lost puppies. So, I don't think I'll listen to any protestations of high standards of journalism when you're right down on the streets soliciting audiences like the rest of us. Look, all I'm saying is if you're going to hustle, at least do it right.

[1] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074958/

All I watch is The Daily Show, mostly because it's funny.

I stop watching the news a long time ago. One incident that help was when I watched a report about a protest in Cuba in favor of Castro. CNN reported 100K participants, CBC French in canada reported 500K participants and while I swing by the BBC, they say it was close to a million. I know judging crowds is hard but come on.

I don't implicitly trust any news organization (not even the BBC) - but there are a handful of journalists who I believe to have extremely high levels of personal integrity and while I might not always agree with their opinions at least I believe that what they are saying is their honestly expressed opinions.

Unfortunately for me only a handful of journalists fall into this category and it has literally taken years (mostly by reading their books) that I identified them.

re: not trusting the BBC - smart move. I'm from England and lots of people regard it as the most unbiased source out there, that and the guardian but if you step back and look critically at them you realise just how bad things are. I'd advise anyone to swingby medialens.org and read some of their articles and buy their books, especially their new one. Unblievable stuff.

It's not just you. Political correctness, 'showing both sides of the debate' and editorializing have made the news far worse than it ever was in recent years. We urgently need news that delivers the facts, and only the facts. Maybe some distributed yet structured collaborative effort like Wikipedia for news?

Actually the news have just recently fallen from their very high quality during the 60 and early 81.

Walter Cronkite actually said on tv "and that is the way it is" once he had delivered the news, but not if he ended the news with an opinion piece.

Now compare this with William Hearst with his "Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I will furnish the war" during the period of yellow journalism.

There aren't really any Hearsts around anymore (though their actual heirs still run the news), and we are properly closer to Conkrite but we are more aware of what is actually going on now than ever - that is why it looks like the news are getting worse.

The statement may be falsely attributed to Hearst:


The economic context from which the statement arose has some similarities to today. Hearst and Pulitzer were competing to grow newspaper circulation. Strangely, Pulitzer appears to escape the bad rap Hearst gets, probably for funding a journalism school and prize.


What is Rupert Murdoch if not a modern Hearst?

Twitter is mostly filling this role for me.

140 characters seems a little limiting for news.

How about for headlines and URLs?

It's nothing more than a sensational story: product you are comfortable and familiar with is secretly a tool of sex and human trafficking. That's almost the perfect evening news. Of course they'll run it. People eat it up. It has nothing to do with disruption or ad revenue or conspiracies against human progress; aside, of course, from the tangential fact that it's a familiar product because of those features. It's just good pop journalism. That's it.

That's part of it, but old media like CNN and the New York Times are losing revenue because of Craigslist (among other things); I doubt it's a coincidence that they are targeting them.

You can verify these numbers ($13b drop in classified revenue from the top) at naa.org...

So, Craigslist is getting mischaracterized and demonized the same way that Google is. I'm tired of people lamenting these sorts of shenanigans. I'd like to hear recommendations as to what we can do to mitigate the bullshit.

As people who have an understanding of tech and disruption why aren't we more effective at defending disruptive techs against those who wish to see them tarnished or destroyed? Shouldn't we be doing something?

The key is to make things that are so indispensable to your customers and/or users that they will speak up to defend you when you are attacked.

In that sense, the business principle of it being better to have a few customers who really love you versus many customers who are lukewarm is similar to the political reality that a well-organized but small special interest will run all over the collective good.

There is really a double benefit because part of the way incumbents defend against disrupters is to go after their weakest point. Who is going to vocally defend Craigslist's erotic services section? How many online media enterprises even have a weaker point than that? It is not a coincidence.

Bah. What kind of article did Jarvis expect the Times to write when Craigslist refuses to give a statement or any explanation? Yes, Virginia, when a website suddenly makes a change and uses a hot-button word like "Censored" and then refuses to discuss it, that is a ploy.

> Yes, prostitution is illegal. It long has been

Uh? Is it? Is prostitution actually illegal in the US or just streetwalking, or brothels, stuff like that? "Networks"?

According to Superfreakonomics, prostitution was mostly legal in the US until the early 20th century---its prohibition was part of the same movement that brought us Prohibition and women's suffrage.

uh... in what manner are the women's rights movement connected to the tea totallers and other moralists?

(that's not a rhetorical question, i have never heard of any such connection, but i am certainly willing to admit that i am not an expert in that period of history)

They're not necessarily required to be connected, but as a historical matter there's some overlap, especially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One strain is a certain kind of social progressivism, which sought to clean up social ills: abolish slavery, abolish drunkenness, achieve equality, improve literacy, etc. So a bunch of the early suffragettes were also active in the temperance and abolitionist movements, among other things. From a different angle, there was also a perceived connection with domestic violence (since most alcoholics were men). Prohibitionism isn't really mainstream anymore, and abolitionism has thankfully become irrelevant thanks to its total victory, but some vestiges of that coalition remain in the anti-porn feminists (though that's very controversial even among feminists; there are probably at least as many "sex-positive feminists", esp. among younger women).

Sure, the 1st, 2nd and purported 3rd wave feminists all have different takes on gender roles and society.

But given what i know about the 1st wave feminists and the suffragettes, i'm surprised to hear tell that there was involvement that would be worth mentioning (in the sense of the entire movement) any more than you could claim that all republicans are pro-life, or that all democrats are pro-business.

Well, it wasn't everyone, but it was a large enough segment of the movement to be worth mentioning, I think, including many of the prominent leaders: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Chapman Catt, Frances Willard, etc. Many organizations overlapped, as well; for example, the Women's Christian Temperance Union was heavily involved in suffrage organizing after Willard became its president.

Cool, the more you know!

Thanks :)

Suffrage only passed as a result of a curious alliance between hard-left socialist feminist types and hard-right temperance/religious purity movements. The left's goal is obvious. For the right the fantastic thing was that most women were actually fairly conservative and would dramatically increase their base for stuff like alcohol prohibition.

A similar trend was responsible for the fall of the Spanish Republic in the '30s and the rise of Franco's regime.

Wow, there really are areas where the US suck hard.

Prostitution is actively illegal in all forms throughout the US, with the exception of licensed brothels in some counties in Nevada.

Depends on the state. I believe prostitution is only "legal" in Nevada, and only then in highly regulated Brothels in mostly rural counties.

I was going to point out that it's legal in RI, too, but I guess it just got outlawed last year: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostitution_in_Rhode_Island

I have no idea what the laws are in the various US states, but up here in Ontario prostitution is perfectly legal. I'm shaky on this, but I believe that the chauvinist porker argument used to be that the law is unable to distinguish a prostitute from a mistress.

While the act of exchanging services for compensation is legal in Ontario, there are laws that criminalize various aspects of running a prostitution business: Solicitation, living off the avails of prostitution, keeping a common bawdy house, and so forth.

We have our own similar debate: Various printed "free" papers include big sections of erotic services classifieds, and there has been much argument as to whether the laws against solicitation really apply to advertising.

One argument is that the laws against solicitation were written up to prevent streetwalking, and classifieds help take prostitutes off the street, so they are actually a public good.

Again, this is my understanding of the situation in Ontario, and I present the argument in favour of classifieds purely for the sake of promoting discussion.

Apologists for Craig's list haven't been able to answer questions regarding sex trafficking on Craig's list and seem to think that their best defense is in attacking everyone who raises questions.

The part about everyone hating Newmark and his work because "He doesn’t do it to get rich" and because he is a disruptor who kills classified ad revenues is amusing.

All the recent hoopla is over a CNN interview and afaik little or none of CNN's ad revenues are threatened by Craig's List. My understanding is that Newmark has made tens of millions of dollars and it is absurd to suggest that journalists would go easier on him if he made even more money to qualify as "rich" in the writer's dictionary.

[edit] Interesting to see my comment downvoted to zero and a response saying that "The same people that own the TV news own the newspapers".

Can anyone tell us which newspaper is owned by CNN or the people who own CNN ?

[edit 2] The downvoting trend is amusing. A short while ago, my comment was at 4, now it is at -1. I see one more response and this one says that Time Warner owns magazines.

Right, so Time Warner owns some magazines, but NO NEWSPAPERS, Craig's List has hurt newspaper ad revenues , Newmark has only earned 10s of millions of dollars and isn't "rich" by the writer's standards ....and because of all this, a whole lot of downvoters seem to believe that CNN shouldn't ask any questions about Craig's List sex trafficking This is funny

Most of the print activities that share corporate ownership with CNN are probably under Time. Here's a link to the Time-Warner businesses:


As far as hurting newspapers goes, don't measure it by what Craigslist takes in. Some of the would-be paying newsprint advertisers are getting exposure on Craigslist for free, and of course papers still see that as damaging.

The media is not very friendly towards entities that don't buy advertising and take away ad dollars of or compete with operations that do. Note how little mention Ubuntu gets at release time, or when Windows malware hits, even though it would help many readers/viewers.

Please read through that wikipedia link you posted and list all the newspapers you find. I think you'll agree it's a very short list.

The same people that own the TV news own the newspapers.

Not only is Craigslist affecting ad revenue, it a safe target since it is not a business likely to buy ads. Some news departments get a bit sheepish when it comes to attacking companies that buy advertising. They're more apt to run stories that amount to press releases.

News outlets seem to like stories like sex scandals in general... remember how much attention they gave Michael Jackson. Even jury selection swamped out some other stories that actually mattered. Here's one of the stories I saw no mention of locally during jury selection:


Which newspapers do Turner Broadcasting own?


Another subsidiary of Time Warner. Though, you're right. Those are mostly periodicals and not newspapers specifically. My mistake.

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