Civil Seeks to Civilize Journalism with Blockchain Tech

Civil, a journalism-focused startup that uses blockchain technology–specifically the Ethereum blockchain–works to disrupt journalism in a way that makes the industry sustainable again.

Back in October 2017, Civil announced $5 million in venture capital funding from ConsenSys–a firm focused on building, funding, researching, and spreading Ethereum and Ethereum blockchain technology, according to Coindesk.

While the startup is genuinely innovative, it requires some explanation. While there are several parts to Civil, there are two important aspects.

According to the Nieman Lab, all articles published by Civil’s newsrooms will not only be published on an accessible website, but will also be copied onto the Ethereum blockchain (viewable here).  

This means instead of articles being deleted and unable to be archived–like what the former journalists of DNAinfo and Gothamist ran into when their sites were suddenly shut down–they would be preserved somewhere on the Ethereum blockchain as a backup.

What Peter Thiel did to Gawker is something Civil is trying to prevent from happening again. Considering one of the newsrooms, Block Club Chicago, was founded to avoid the Gothamist issue, this is important to the model.  

The second main part of Civil is creating a decentralized market for journalism. With the usage of CVL tokens, people who care about the newsrooms they are reading can support good journalism with these tokens or, more simply, in paying the newsrooms with regular money like regular news companies.

Courtesy: Civil

Even if one decides to avoid the cryptocurrency component of Civil’s premise, one can still support Civil’s newsrooms in a traditional manner.

Civil’s newsrooms hold great promise and diversity. They include Popula, an international alt-weekly that includes Maria Bustillos along with writers with bylines from The New Yorker, Pacific Standard, The Los Angeles Times and other major news publications.

Other newsrooms include Hmm Daily, run by former Gawker/The Awl editor Tom Socca. Additionally, the European Journalism Centre, with support from Civil and CUNY’s News Integrity Initiative, announced that 1.7 million will be used to support new newsrooms in Europe that will have the option to later join Civil.

Recently, Civil held an event at The George Washington University, partnering with Blockchain for Social Impact–a nonprofit incubator that develops blockchain products and solutions that aim to address the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. The organization also works toward creating bridges between the world of nonprofits and government and the world of technologists and venture capitalists.

The event and panel was not only an explanation of Civil, but a conversation about the current challenges that journalism faces. At the event, the definitive launch date is said to be in two months–indicating that Civil will launch around June.

The challenges vary, from the strange business model to technical problems with the Ethereum blockchain. These technical challenges include whether the Ethereum blockchain be able to handle the many transactions occurring within Civil’s various processes.

The second half of the event featured a panel that included David Ensor and professor Neil Wasserman, along with Matthew Iles and Christine Mohan, CEO and co-founder of Civil, respectively.

The panel was less about Civil and more the current challenges facing journalism, such as lack of revenue, costs of good investigative journalism, and a distrust of mainstream journalism and media in general.

The main take from Civil and the event is that journalism is in need of new solutions to solve the revenue problem. The question remains, will Civil succeed in its goal of civilizing journalism?  

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