Can Civil save journalism?

I’ve written before about the crisis in journalism and how it equates to a crisis for democracy. And the crisis in journalism is less about the quality of reporting and more about unfavorable economics. Business models have been eroded. New institutions are needed.

Today, I began the process of participating in Civil, a platform with the lofty goal of “building the new economy for journalism.” Civil is building a community of experienced and well-credentialed journalists and technologists to build a new institution that supports trustworthy and economically viable journalism. At it’s core is, wait for it, a blockchain token.

I’m convinced that the vast majority of blockchain tokens are, at best, part of a fad that will fade away, and, at worst, scams. I have a more optimistic view of Civil, however. For one thing, it’s leadership team is strong enough to make me believe it’s not a scam. And the tokens themselves are core to both the funding of the news ventures themselves and the governance of Civil as an institution. It’s really an interesting governance model.

With that said, as I go through the process, it’s also clear that Civil’s governance will never truly be inclusive. The hoops you have to go through in order to buy a blockchain token are orders of magnitude more complicated than any other kind of participatory governance system. And while Civil is running webinars and trainings to guide people through the process, it’s still mind-bogglingly complex. I will admit that I am pushing buttons without any sense of what is happening behind the scenes. I’m in essence handing a whole lot of trust over to a blockchain ecosystem that has not yet been proven to be trustworthy. It’ll take a week or two for me to complete this transaction. Wish me luck.

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