This morning's opening session of the Newspaper Association of America's annual convention at the Marriott Marquis did not, for the most part, stray from the now-tired narrative about newspapers and their modern troubles. The publisher and CEO of the Washington Post, the rather improbably named Boisfeuillet Jones Jr., said that newspapers are preserving something called youth-oriented content. (Think of the children!) Journalism, he reminded the crowd, advances a great value to the nation. The crowd seemed to totally agree! John Sturm, who is the president of the Newspaper Association of America—whose board has five women among its 35 members, including Times Co. CEO Janet Robinson—made a joke about the Broadway play Spamalot, which some conference attendees are attending tomorrow night. Synergy! He also said that the Internet is the future. "When you add everything together, our audience is increasing!" he promised the crowd.
We are looking forward to the day when we don't have these discussions about "the future of newspapers." Every time, it goes like this: Journalism lives, but print is dead! Investors are, mostly, evil! Let us not forget that profit margins are still healthy! And most important: Newspapers are not losing readers! Remember the Internet!
Charlie Rose and Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, came to the stage. Mr. Rose was wearing bright red socks. He loves newspapers too! "I have seven newspapers dropped on my doorstep 10 blocks from here, every day," he said. It is no secret that many newspaper people, implicitly or explicitly, at least partially blame Mr. Newmark for the slow and steady demise of newspaper profits, particularly in classified advertising. Perhaps what they find most frustrating about Mr. Newmark is his (so-far) almost total disregard for making a huge profit off of Craigslist—he's a competitor, but he's rejecting the cash that so many othes would gladly, desperately take.
But Mr. Newmark says he believes, very strongly, in the importance of journalism, particularly investigative journalism, and he has begun to support these efforts financially. He has a clique of Internet friends—PressThink's Jay Rosen; Jeff Jarvis, who writes the blog Buzzmachine; Ellen Miller, of the Sunlight Foundation, which aims to reduce corruption and increase transparency in elected officials; and citizen media-ist Dan Gillmor—whom he consults regularly about investigative reporting matters. He watches Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, CNN, the BBC, and Keith Olbermann, and reads the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle (the "Chron"), and the Huffington Post. He also suggested that the crowd "take a look at the Soho Blogplex, around Broadway and Prince," where several media blogs have their offices. (Gross!)
Mr. Newmark has what he calls "nerd values," which means, he says, that he continues to run Craigslist because it "feels right," that "once you make enough money to take care of things, money enables you to change the world." Power, he says, is "a pain in the butt."