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It's time for journalists to be afraid. In the old days, the media had all the power - and we decided what news the public should hear, whether they agreed with us or not. As Seinfeld commented in the comedy show of the same name : « It's funny how all the news in the world fits exactly into a newspaper. »
But with the internet, all that is changing. Readers can filter out the news they consider irrelevant, and search for information that genuinely affects their lives. Now one of the best-known figures on the internet has said he is going into journalism. Craig Newmark has already revolutionised classified advertising in the United States with his free ad site, Craigslist, which began in San Francisco. Got something to sell ? If you're in San Francisco (and now in many other cities) you can advertise it on the list, for free (www.craigs list.org). US newspapers say the list has cost them millions of dollars in lost advertising revenue.
Newmark has not revealed the details of his news service, but the basic idea is to let readers vote for the stories they consider important. It means that PR-led stories - launches of new products, for example - and the empty phrases of politicians are likely to vanish from the screen. Although Newmark hasn't set out to deliberately wreck the newspaper industry, it's perhaps time traditional media realised they are no longer in charge. What a beautiful age we live in.