Journalism must be nurtured by other skills to survive.
The digital economy allows more independence, but with its risks.
The Internet has had a notable impact on social relationships, and after more than 30 years of its invention, it continues to surprise us with interesting communication phenomena.
Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, as digital assets of the Internet, have seen growth in their value and market capitalization. But also, its overcrowding poses challenges to human communicationsIt is a set of technologies with a direct impact on social and money-related interactions.
Journalism, as a profession in charge of disseminating information, is also influenced by the cryptocurrency ecosystem. This space has become not only the source of news about scams, unusual price hikes and regulatory dramas, but also a new knowledge niche to convey in an understandable way to the audience.
Likewise, the figure of the journalist seems to be confused with that of the influencer and creator of content in digital media. It is true, the emergence of the creator’s economy involves additional responsibilities to the journalist, but their responsibility and objectivity should not be sacrificed for the positioning and reputation they can obtain on the Internet.
On these issues, CriptoNoticias spoke with Leigh Cuen, American journalist known in the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency ecosystem.
Cuen has worked for important publications around the world, such as Business Insider, Vice, TechCrunch, Playboy and has oriented his work towards topics such as the digital economy, the sex industry, politics and literature, including in many of his works the perspective of women.
A) Yes has become a benchmark in cryptocurrency journalism, but with a personal tone that, thanks to her persistence, has made her a success in the industry.
What have been the challenges of journalism specializing in cryptocurrencies?
To begin with, I think there really is no reliable source of data, as if you were reporting on an international conflict and could turn to the UN or Amnesty International, or a third party.
In Bitcoin there are only bitcoiners and critics of Bitcoin, so there is no third source of data that journalists can turn to and that their position is less biased with respect to a situation.
The second thing is that the data is really difficult to read. If you do not understand the topics related to computer science and computation, you will have no idea what you are looking for; like when you are looking for something related to a node, or to open source code (Open Source Code), how do you verify a lot of what is said about it.
Third, the big issue is that because it’s so profitable to ‘fake it until you make it’ in this industry, it can be difficult to fact check when someone talks about the future potential of something that hardly exists today.
So many journalists can easily get carried away with promises that may not be relevant at all, from cryptocurrency projects, by factors that have nothing to do with whether the code works or not, or the legal compliance of the project.
I think all of this combined makes fact checking very difficult and to make it worse, crypto enthusiast audiences are passionate and quite engaged, so whatever you go wrong about, they will be pretty strict.
It’s guaranteed that if you make a mistake, you’ll get a lot of pressure for it, publicly, so many journalists are afraid to try. But when we try, it is so rewarding to write about something that did not exist before in the world and bring it to audiences who did not have this information. So there are many benefits to being a cryptojournalist as well.
Journalists who have approached the world of cryptocurrencies have had to acquire other tools and knowledge to practice their profession. Source: Pixibay.
What should a person do who wants to become a good crypto journalist and have the versatility of content creators on the Internet?
Currently, being a journalist is something that is changing rapidly. When I went to journalism school it was unthinkable that, for example, the editor of a magazine would work independently with the advertisers of that magazine. For example, if you work in the fashion industry, it would be normal to have a business alliance with Gucci and publish a post on Instagram, but also to be the editor of Vogue, where you should be objective in, for example, what was the collection of the season.
I think that if you are starting out, it is important not to work from these alliances and to work for a publication, and to think about how to work with companies in the industry so that your objectivity is not trivialized.
We also have resources, such as the ACJR, the Association of Cryptocurrency Journalists and Investigators, a non-profit organization that can help you connect with mentors and other resources in the space.
It seems important to me that those who are starting out seek to have a solid foundation as journalists, in terms of the publications and colleagues with whom they work, before thinking about working with companies, because these alliances can be deceptive and difficult to manage.
Against this background, how can a journalist stay independent and objective, but also have good relationships with industry players?
I wish I had a simple answer, because actually achieving this is very difficult. For those who start, it is true that they may be quite incisive, but I think that if we have an open mind and do not try to attack anyone, telling the truth to your audience, people will notice.
I have been through many cases where some companies do not like me because of the coverage I have given them, but over the years, I have always done everything in good faith, so they come back to look for me to work because they see me I care about my readers. Having that consistency and independence are not guarantees, but for example, I use BTCPayServer, where I have a store of my journalistic products, and there people can send me tips. They can even finance the writing of an article on some topic. Readers are so engaged that they are willing to support journalists.
Seeking publication and reader funding before you work for a company and making sure it brings you a good reputation is how we can eventually overcome this dilemma. There will never be a promised land where everyone is happy to work with you and there are no conflicts of interest. You will have to review and go step by step to reach that goal.
Based on the emergence of the “creative economy”, do you think it is possible for everyone to support the work entirely on the funding of readers?
Of course not.
So what can journalists and content creators do to fund the work, but not give in to viral content and clickbaits?
When we talk about clickbait, we are talking about a product that everyone wants, and there will never be a shortage of demand for the content that people want.
On the other hand, doing only the things you like is not the best way to make money. You have to be okay with that. I would recommend to anyone who wants to be a journalist, develop other skills and services that they can offer, such as editing or consulting, and try not to work directly with any company you are reporting for.
I do not believe that journalism, as a skill set, is sustainable or reliable to live with. There are other skills that people can use instead of producing stories that may not sell. I could sell a clickbait article for a reputable publication, but that’s not what I’m passionate about. I prefer to sell directly to my readers a content that may not be the most visited, but with which I feel good. You must have that balance.
Maybe one day you will write about launching a Gucci wallet, but the next day you will write about the importance of different types of money, and those two pieces of content make very different amounts of money. So if you have several sources of income based on these contents, you can continue to be independent.
The digital media have had to diversify their sources of financing and resources to sustain themselves in the current times.
Can anyone build their own audience?
I think that with time, anyone who works very hard has the opportunity to create their own audience. Just as anyone can be a pop star (Pop Star), it is rare, there are no guarantees of success in the creative industry, as there is a lot of demand for that type of opportunity. But I think that if people work hard, it is quite possible that they can build something to be proud of, regardless of whether that is their full-time profession.
What are those skills that a beginner in journalism or content creation needs?
If I could travel back in time, I would tell my younger self to study computers and informatics. The ability to make your own website, create a code that allows you to automate what you need, is quite useful. I’ve paid engineers a lot of money to do things that I could do if I had those skills, so computer science is quite useful.
Also, languages. Don’t overlook the value of translation. Many people want to translate their content to different audiences, who want to sell to different markets and that may seem basic (Ok, I speak English, who cares), but there are many companies that need that particular skill, and you can use it to balance journalism and create new sources of income, where writing is one of the smallest of all.
How do your experiences as a journalist and also as a user of cryptocurrencies interact?
I’m not a big tech user, I don’t understand what I’m doing (laughs). I think it helps me in my professional development because I can speak to an audience that is still new to the ecosystem, speak in their language. Basically I am a translator, from the language of the developers to the new users. But I’m still starting.
Follow Leigh on Twitter.