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Department of Not Getting It

The Philadelphia Daily News’ Will Bunch loosely compares Craig Newmark to Lee Harvey Oswald in one of the more bizarre anti-craigslist rants to date from a newspaper guy who understands that advertising revenue is being separated from journalism in the Digital Era. Quote:

If you won’t charge customers for ads, and apparently you won’t, then at least start accepting those text ads, and funnel those millions of dollars into the newly formed Craig’s Foundation. And what will be the main benefactor of this new foundation? A scholarship fund, to pay for the college education of the dozens of displaced journalists across America losing their jobs everyday

Given Bunch’s normally well-chosen words, I have to believe this is either a total put-on or a rare case of foolishness by someone who should know better. If it’s the latter, he’s giving everyone who considers professional journalists to be whiny, spoiled brats — with not the slightest idea of how the real world works — a load of new ammunition.

The illogic is truly weird in any case. What should we do about volunteers and nonprofits? Should we require them to charge for their services and then created scholarship funds for the children of the for-profit employees who’d have those jobs if there were no volunteers or nonprofits “undercutting” their work?

Good grief.

(Disclosure: Craig is on my board of advisors, and a supporter of this Center. He’s also a friend, and I admire what he’s accomplished.)

8 Comments on “Department of Not Getting It”

  1. #1 Delia
    on Dec 12th, 2006 at 6:48 pm


    I’m wondering how should I take that disclosure? How do you want your readers to take your comments (re: craigslist and Craig). Do you feel that you are giving an accurate account or… are you just sitting too close to be able to see things in perspective? You are saying you admire what he’s accomplished — I’m wondering if you think the *way* he has done it may be questionable?


  2. #2 Michael
    on Dec 13th, 2006 at 8:49 am

    You could ask Bunch if he’s joking, or if he’s not. His comment got attention on Romenesko, and your take on the situation is valuable, and would be more so if you knew Bunch’s intent. You’d have more to say, either way.

  3. #3 Dan Gillmor
    on Dec 13th, 2006 at 10:34 am

    Delia, not sure what you’re asking. The disclosure is what it is, nothing more or less. I do, in fact, admire people who don’t try to extract every possible dollar from every possible situation.

  4. #4 Timothy
    on Dec 13th, 2006 at 11:48 am

    I sent the following to Mr. Bunch:

    Newkirk is no assassin. It appears that you are blaming Craig and company for what many newspapers are doing to themselves. Too many years on a diet of high calorie classifieds have made the newspaper industry fat and sluggish. And, instead of innovating and turning its huge audiences into an advantage against upstarts, print is too busy loading six shooters to blast lead into their own feet.

    I find it particularly ironic that you point out the following quote:

    “No users have been requesting that we run text ads”

    Yes, that’s the rub. Craig listens to his audience, newspapers preach to theirs.

    Your assertion that craigslist should milk their traffic for every last cent not only shows a lack of interest in the audience, but also shows a fair amount of hypocrisy. How many businesses have met their demise as a result of the existence of newsprint? Are you starting any charities on their behalf? How about the newspapers that have put other papers out of business?

    It is frustrating to work in an industry so certain of its own demise, interested only in vilifying those who will likely drive the future economy. If what you are doing is so necessary, I’d think you’d be able to sell it as its own product instead of living off the lard of rummage sale ads.

    And there you have it. Without the classifieds, journalists lose jobs. But, as craigslist has proven, the classifieds have no need of editorial. Start selling the product you create and your livelihood will no longer be in jeopardy.

  5. #5 Delia
    on Dec 13th, 2006 at 2:57 pm


    Sorry about not being clear. I just find it amusing how what (to me) seem to be craigslist’s publicity stunts seem to throw all sorts of people for weirder and weirder loops… (like this Will Bunch guy and his rant).

    I am not myself sure what you are saying re:the disclosure, but no big deal (it would have just been nice to know if you *thought* your comments on craigslist and on Craig are *objective* — well, to the best of your ability, in spite of your association — because if you didn’t, I’d just have to look at them differently).

    As to not extracting “every possible dollar from every possible situation,” I don’t think we have enough information at this point to really know what’s Craig *really* up to… (if you’d like more detail on this, feel free to check-out the craigslist criticism blog I recently started:

    As to why it seems to me that Jim was pulling a publicity stunt when talking about not running text ads (“No users have been requesting we run text ads so that’s the end of the story”): I’d have to track it down (not sure if it’s still available on line, I just did a quick search) but I clearly remember that in a speech a couple of years back (responding to a question from the audience) Craig said they might consider text ads — the fact that (if we are to believe Jim) “no users have asked for them” didn’t seem to be an issue…


    P.S. anyways, no big deal (just thought I’d ask). D.

  6. #6 Dan Kennedy
    on Dec 22nd, 2006 at 6:03 pm

    I don’t blame Craig Newmark for what he’s done, but admire? Why? Newspapers publish classifieds to make money, to line their owners’ pockets — and to pay for the journalism that they produce. Craigslist doesn’t have to pay for any journalism, so it was able to swoop in and destroy newspapers’ revenue basis. That’s not admirable, but it’s the way capitalism works, so good for Newmark.

  7. #7 Dan Gillmor
    on Dec 23rd, 2006 at 10:37 am

    Delia, you call it a publicity stunt. Why? The investment bankers invited the company to their event.

    Dan, you seem to frame it from the newspapers’ point of view. I don’t, and here’s what I admire: craigslist provided a vastly better service for advertisers and their customers than the monopoly newspapers did with classified ads. It also created and enhanced a sense of community online, in ways that newspapers never even tried to do until very recently. And it did all this without trying to extract every last dollar that could be extracted from the communities it served.

  8. #8 Delia
    on Dec 25th, 2006 at 9:04 pm

    sorry about the delay…

    Dan K: IF Craig has been deceiving/and continues to deceive people in order to reach his “capitalist ends,” sorry, but he is not somebody I can admire — would he have *started* that way… and told people up front he wanted to move the market (jobs, real estate, personals etc.) on the internet… more power to him!

    Dan G: I’m saying it certainly *looks* like a publicity stunt! (still looking for that link re: — the fact that they were *invited* seems to have little relevance to the issue… (IF craigslist didn’t have any problem considering running text ads in the past, I find it hard to regard Jim’s statement — ”No users have been requesting we run text ads *so that’s the end of the story* [my emphasis]” — as anything *but* a publicity stunt… sounds great! doesn’t it? gets people talking…*really* talking! but how truthful is that statement in the light of Craig’s prior statement? Not very… doesn’t *seem* be…)