Can blockchain save local journalism?


Journalism is a sector that has been seriously disturbed by technology as news readers move online. Many documents have yet to develop new revenue streams to replace their old models, but a new start-up called Civil thinks that technology could also be the savior of journalism.

It involves average citizens who buy a share of independent editors with the help of cryptocurrency. Civil has now financed online journalism outlets from Chicago to Singapore.

"We have had 20 years or more of digital media managed primarily by companies like Google and Facebook that are not just concerned with journalism and have business models that rely on user data collection and ad service and are damaging journalism in serious way, "said Civil CEO Mathew Iles.

While the footprint of traditional newspapers is shrinking, Civil's footprint is growing. The objective is a market for news held and managed by journalists and citizens, partly financed by cryptocurrency. Information is stored using blockchain, decentralized and publicly owned online storage – a way to keep the facts open and to hackers.

"The immutable nature of blockchain makes it almost impossible for anyone, including governments, multinationals, billionaires, to be able to basically hack the blockchain and change some facts or records or information in the past … Sometimes journalism is defined as the first draft of history: Using something like blockchain, we can stamp the first draft of history into a permanent and immutable archive, "Iles said.

One of Civil's first test tubes is composed of a group of seven journalists and three editors in Denver, who all worked at the Denver Post once. Two Pulitzer prizes shared for coverage, but all left cuts and layoffs imposed by owners of hedge funds whose demand for higher profits decimated the editorial staff. Now they produce the Colorado Sun, almost three weeks with Civil seed money.

"So we started those conversations and I can tell you that it was exciting to dream of building something new rather than collaborating in the destruction of a proud newspaper," Colorado editor Sun Larry Ryckman said.

The Sun reported on how the governor of Colorado formed a PAC as a possible run for the president, a climber who redid his life after a devastating fall and a dozen surgeries and a piece on the South Platte River.

Journalism is expensive and the Sun insists on paying real salaries to journalists.

"You know we're all passionate about journalism, but we all have lives and mortgages and rent to pay and kids in college and all these sorts of things and we're very lucky as the Colorado Sun was able to provide all of us with salaries which are comparable to what we were doing at the Denver Post or, in some cases, even more than we earned at the Denver Post, "Ryckman said.

In order for Civil's discoveries to be lessened, it will depend on supporters of the community and businesses.

"For now we are using more than one model of National Public Radio or Public Television which is to tell a company that we will not help you sell mattresses on July 4th or Washington Day or something like that. mission and believe in our company, we would be happy to have your support, "said Ryckman.

Journalists have become accustomed to reporting bad news about their troubled profession. If Civil works in Colorado and elsewhere, it could be a rare time for journalists these days: a story about journalism with a happy ending.

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