cl.jpgDoes Craigslist have the power to revive the industry many think they once carelessly destroyed? The blue/grey/white site where you can find, well, pretty much everything, has frequently been blamed for killing newspapers by pulling paper’s classified advertising business right out from under them. Of course this blaming has usually been done by the newspapers themselves, because everyone knows insurance companies won’t pay out for suicides it’s way easier to blame your business’ failure on external forces than on your own mistakes.

But today, the Chronicle reports, The Rebecca Project For Human Rights has taken a half-page ad in today’s print Chronicle calling for Craigslist to shut down its entire “adult services” section, saying that that section of the site “is ‘the choice’ for selling sex with underage girls.” This is probably not the kind of ranking one adds to one’s “about us” page!

Setting aside both the genuine tragedy of sex slavery (underage and otherwise) and the oddness of a newspaper reporting on ads on its pages (we look forward to Chron wine editor Jon Bonne taking a hard look at the Cost Plus World Market’s wine-centric advertising from Sunday’s paper, because I have had that “Firestone” $7 Riesling and it is not good), this is very exciting. Because, don’t you see, this is how Craigslist will save newspapers!

If the Chron’s smart, their ad staff will go after anyone who wants to call bullshit on things they find to be harmful on the site. Roommate you found on the site turn out to be a psycho? BAM quarter ad in the Real Estate section. Used Volvo you took off work to look at, that barely ran? Looks like you’d be an ideal advertiser for the car section! Angry journalists could purchase print ads decrying the Appeal’s Craigslist call for interns (as opposed to spamming me from their invariably email addresses, as they have been doing). Hey, maybe if we’re lucky, the paper will even write an article about their ad about our ad, too!

And it doesn’t just have to be the Chronicle — Craigslist has sites everywhere, presumably filled with advertisers doing things deemed as harmful by someone. The sky is the limit, people!

Sure, maybe Craig Newmark and company crapped out when it came to bailing out the Chron before the paper’s union agreed to cut 150 jobs last year. But, as long as the service runs ads that have the power to do anything from annoy to hurt people, I see a second chance for them to be the paper’s indirect savior.

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at

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