THE BLOG

New Media Moguls: Trust and Twitter Can Save Journalism

07/04/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

"Trust is the new black," declared Craig Newmark at a new media summit on Wednesday, predicting that more reliable, fact-checked journalism will excel in the new media environment.

As the founder of Craigslist, of course, Newmark is often blamed for sinking American newspapers by decimating their classified ads -- a charge he dismissed as an "urban legend" -- but he says he is very concerned about the state of journalism. "We need tough-minded journalism to survive and do well as a democracy," he said, speaking on a panel of Internet entrepreneurs and journalists at NYU's Journalism School, one of the more high profile events at "Internet Week" in Manhattan.

Nick Denton, the Internet mogul behind Gawker and a raft of profitable blog sites, was more bearish on the prospects for traditional newspaper journalism. While it would be "tempting" to hire laid off journalists to blog, he said, "a lot of those people don't adjust well to working online." Instead, Denton expects that Internet niche media will continue to flourish, as the value of targeted, original reporting rises.

Turning to the ultimate niche "media," the Wall Street Journal's Alan Murray credited Twitter as his key news source. "As a news consumer," he said, Twitter is a "much more satisfying way of filtering news" than aggregation sites like Huffington Post or the Drudge Report. (Murray also relayed his employer's frustration with the ultimate aggregator, Google, for shortchanging media content providers, even saying that "maybe" the Journal would sue Google, in response to a question.)

One of the brains behind Twitter was on hand to hear about the site's media footprint, which turned out to be a surprise. Co-Founder Jack Dorsey volunteered that he had not expected the site would play a big role in journalism. Twitter has swiftly emerged as a reporting and promotion tool, from providing crowdsourced reporting to virally spreading articles. (For a fascinating account of how citizens shared real-time information on last year's Mumbai terror attacks, check out this Times article by Noam Cohen and Brian Stelter.) Dorsey said those trends, just like "reply" and "search" features on the site, simply bubbled up from the user community. And Denton made Twitter sound like a competitive edge, noting that smart young journalists on his staff, like Gabriel Snyder, have swapped RSS feeds for Twitter to see stories and trends moving in real time.

Finally, Murray argued that social sites like Twitter have not only shifted reporting and promotion, but upended how journalists understand their relationship with their readers. "Reporters who are good at this understand that they have to cultivate" their own audience," he said, which is actually the "biggest change in journalism."