About a year ago today I moved into the bitcoin media. The subject was new to me, as it is for most on bitcoin planet – even the most well versed. I had been following the news for a couple of months, but only what the larger channels were reporting.
Bitcoin is extremely complex, and the newness of it for me at the time has probably served me well in my job; made me slow down a bit, spend extra time to understand what I was being fed, try to see why anything I ever report could matter to non-bitcoiners.
I didn’t move into crypto media to portray bitcoin as one thing or another. I don’t root for its “success” the way I do the SF Giants and I don’t have ultra-libertarian dreams of bitcoin taking over democracy or the dollar. I just wanted to explain it – to myself and my audience.
In the last year: Japanese bitcoin exchange Mt Gox collapsed and lost $350 million in customer funds, the FBI shut down black marketplace Silk Road, Bloomberg terminals began listing bitcoin prices and New York released a still developing BitLicense.
The latter two events here – they’re kind of boring. But they indicate that bitcoin has arrived, turned heads in “the mainstream” and that some “very serious people” are ready to have very serious conversations about it.
Journalists should be at the front of that. They’re skeptical by nature – to not be seems irresponsible – but in the bitcoin media we generally appear far from it. Now’s a good time for the news to become more challenging, more critical, less promotional, less like a campaign.
Last year Tim Draper predicted the bitcoin price would reach $10 thousand, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss called $40 thousand and Raoul Pal $1 million. These are grandiose claims and ideas that make for frequently sensationalist headlines and non-news stories. Regular consumers of bitcoin media are familiar with these.
A large corporation with a household name announces it’ll begin accepting payments in bitcoin through Coinbase (probably). These payment processors convert those funds back into fiat for the risk-averse companies that aren’t into the bitcoin price volatility, but love a great marketing scheme – although this point doesn’t often make it into our stories.
That’s no surprise to our most avid readers and followers, but as the ecosystem grows, so do our audiences – especially if mainstream coverage remains limited. Our content needs to mature with them and reflect news teams that strive to produce some serious journalism instead of providing a playground for bitcoin fanatics.
Obviously, the bitcoin media has significant influence in people’s perceptions of bitcoin and therefore its value. There’s a big lack of faith that we can produce objective reports because we’re ostensibly beholden to the industry (rightly so – bitcoin news often doesn’t justify or provide context to what could easily be misinformation).
We’re not beholden, though. I’m proud to have worked with other journalists that don’t have ulterior agendas, work very hard to present facts with balance, unbiased and unexaggerated, and I dare everyone in bitcoin media to perform by these – pretty basic – standards that my peers have imposed on me.
Does bitcoin have an image problem? Yeah, it’s taken a lot of punches from the wider press and I think at least in the developed world it’s largely for startups and regulators to iron out together. But we also look like a bunch of haters. We should steer and foster more sophisticated debates than the temperamental, Reddit-style snark that we’re used to and show our observers.
So better start swimmin’ or sink like a stone. Let’s work hard and be more critical – that’s the responsibility we have to ourselves, each other and our audience.