Decentralized journalism

Had an idea the other day.  I think it could be a big one.

Decentralization is something I’ve paid a great deal of attention to over the years.  We’ve seen it tackle the taxi industry, hotels, and several forms of media.  Next, I’m keen to see how it tackles things like energy and currency.  In each case, the premise seems rather simple:  Make better use of the resources we already have, and let technology shoulder the workload of keeping things organized.

Every great business is a solution to a very real problem.  In this case, the solution is to the problem of modern journalism.  Currently, journalism places a greater emphasis on being first than it does on being right.  Sensationalism has replaced accuracy.  Journalism has become more about producing ammunition than telling a story.  And it needs to change.

There’s a curious link between humans, size, power, and corruption.  The bigger we get, the more power we’re inclined to have, and the more power we’re inclined to have, the more susceptible we are to corruption.  The news industry in America became tremendously powerful over the decades, and was far more centralized than most people realized.  Even today, organizations like Sinclair and Fox are making significant moves to expand their political reach.  Anytime an industry gets big and corrupt like this, it’s time for decentralization to save the day.

My idea is a news platform which would allow journalists to earn a living while maintaining their independence and their integrity.  While also holding them accountable.  I realized that while I knew the names of all these news anchors, I couldn’t name the author of a single article I had read in the last week.  The twisted thing is that I barely watch any cable news – and I real a lot of articles.  Why didn’t I know their names?  It was because they were promoted as secondary to the organization they were reporting on behalf of.  I wonder what journalism would look like if journalists were front and center for their work?

Similar to a Google news feed or Reddit, your feed would be a collection of news articles curated around your interests.  What would make it different though, is that the person behind the article would also be well profiled.  These individuals deserve to be recognized for the work that they’re doing.  By letting good journalists be closely associated with their work, they can be recognized for what they’re doing and build a reputation for it.  By letting poor journalists be closely associated for their work, they can be recognized for what they’re doing as well.

How these journalists would be profiled is a very interesting question.  An overall 5 star review system would probably be part of it, but maybe not.  Maybe the 5 star rating system is a better predictor of popularity than competence.  I know that for me personally, the biggest concerns in journalism are honesty and accuracy.  So maybe the first thing that gets added to the profile is a bullshit meter.  If you used alternative facts in a story you wrote, the people reading should know that and be able to hold you accountable.  And that becomes part of your profile..

Most of our news today is delivered to us through a TV personality, quoting another news organization, using a piece of information gathered by one of their journalists, who used an anonymous source to report what they heard.  By the time you hear it, you’re not sure what to make of it.  Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not.  Who knows by the time it makes it to you.  But what if the journalist who broke this news, had an immaculate track record with their news releases?  What if they used anonymous sources?  Would you care if they’ve always been accurate?  Personally, I don’t mind the use of anonymous sources if they’re being verified by someone who I trust.  Not all anonymous sources should be treated equally.

So we would want everyone to be held accountable to the same standards of honesty.  How that would be accomplished exactly, I’m not sure.  I think it would probably do well to partner with an existing fact checking organization, but the best solution would involve the community holding its own community members accountable.  Something I enjoy thoroughly about the comment section on Reddit (depending on the subreddit), is that the most upvoted comment is often one that adds more clarity to the article.  Sometimes it’s for calling out the article on inaccuracies, sometimes it’s by providing additional sources to elaborate on a point.  I think that a community like this would be imperative to this platform’s long-term success.

The next thing I’d like to see on journalist prifles are accuracy of speculative statements.  If you have someone who’s always telling you how things are going to turn out, it’s important to know how often they’re right.  Those who are able to predict the future with a high degree of accuracy should probably be listened to more.  Those found to be crying wolf too often, should probably be heard less.  Allowing for people to be held accountable to these speculative statements will hopefully drive more practical discussions and limit unreasonable fear mongering.

However this profile ends up looking, it’s purpose is to give the audience context about who they’re hearing the story from.  It’s to help create an informed reader, while encouraging journalistic integrity.  Especially in a climate like this, I’m confident in the value of honesty.  I’m confident in the peoples’ value of journalistic integrity and honesty, but I’m also sympathetic to their distrust of large media corporations controlling the dialogue.  This would be a big step in separating the two.

I think this would have to work in tandem with a user profile as well.  One of the biggest issues we run into in modern media are thought bubbles and echo chambers.  Perhaps a way around that is having an algorithm track your bias.  For example, if your political bias shows that you’re off center, the algorithm would include some of the most credible articles that might disagree with your views.  A balanced perspective is key, and there’s no evidence to suggest that everything in your news feed should be something that you agree with.

Another element of this platform is that it would welcome all sources of media.  Podcasts are the new radio.  YouTube is the new TV.  This is about inclusivity of talent, and allowing merit to drive the spotlight.

Now how would you go about attracting all these high quality reporters away from their existing jobs?  Promise them the flexibility and freedom to write about whatever they’d like, at whatever place they’d like to write at?  Too easy.  Tell them they get to work from where ever they’d like, as little or as often as they’d like?  Meh.  Promise them that they’ll be the one’s who are recognized for their articles and that they have the ability to build a personal brand around their craft?  Maybe.  Or maybe tell them that they’ll have a 50% revenue split with all ad revenue generated by their articles.  Bam.

People might say that democracy is dying when Trump is elected while half the American voting population stays home.  Yet we’re liking, and up-voting more than ever.  I think we enjoy voting, it’s just that there’s a bit of a cost reward calculation going on.  Putting some big up-votes behind some talented journalists who aren’t afraid to put their neck on the line to expose those big truths… we could bring them to the mainstream.  We could make heroes out of them and remind ourselves of the ideals we should be striving for.  We could give journalism the home it deserves.

So where to start?  School news papers of course.  I\ve learned that when looking to the future, look to the kids.  Go to the high schools, universities and colleges, and show them how easy it is to move their school publication on to this platform.  Instead of having to run everything through the bureaucracy of a normal news paper or site, have your journalists operate independently.  Teachers might not be into it. Some parent’s might be concerned.  But that’s the point.  And the fun.  Have the conversations that they don’t want you to have.  Talk about the things that you’ve been told not to talk about.  Dig into the real.  And imagine how real that gets at a university paper.  And imagine the power of a platform like this taking hold at an academic level, and producing the fierce, confident, intelligent, rational journalists that are capable of providing us with an honest and accurate view of the world.

Wouldn’t that be something.

Win the Next Presidential Election With This One Weird Trick

I was tempted to throw in the /s but it’s true.  Seriously.

It wasn’t the republican right that elected Trump.  It wasn’t the democratic left that let Hillary down either.  It was the American people who made themselves heard.  Trump was elected as a giant fuck-you to how America governs – justifiably so.

It was a fuck-you to career politicians with fake smiles and fake laughs.

It was a fuck-you to wall street influencing monetary policy.

It was a fuck-you to the oversensitive and irrational alt-left.

It was a fuck-you to partisan politics and the inability of politicians to get anything done.

It was a fuck-you to the wealthy elite.

And perhaps most importantly, it was a fuck you to a lack of honesty and transparency between a government and the people it serves.

Trump may just be the best thing to happen to American politics in generations, in the same way that a bull is great for a china shop.  Bull wrecks china shop, owner realizes nobody buys china anymore and uses the insurance money to open a dispensary.  I think a lot of the people who voted for him already knew this, but if there was any doubt… he’s worse than a career politician, he’s the wealthy elite’s racist grandpa.  One of the first things he did was cozy up to wall street.  He’s just as irrational and oversensitive as the alt-left.  With republican control over the senate and house, he still can’t get anything passed. Bipartisanship is worse than ever.  Finally, and most importantly, Trump has probably solidified himself as the most dishonest politician in American history.  For anybody looking at this objectively, he’s the one you send in to undermine any remaining confidence in the American establishment.

So by the time the American people are ready to elect their next president, what are they going to be looking for?  The same thing we’ve always wanted…


Honesty and Transparency.


Seriously.  That’s it.  We’re just going to want it that much more after all this nonsense.  Run a campaign under the premise of releasing every confidential government file ever held.  Moon landing?  Release it all.  JFK?  Release it all.  9/11?  Release it all.  Area 51?  Release it all.  Every god damn piece of information that the government has – make it readily available to the public.  Maybe it all amounts to very little, but at least the public would regain their confidence in their government.  Or maybe we find out that the government hasn’t been as honest with us as we would’ve liked and we have an opportunity to rebuild that trust with a proper foundation.

Electing someone we don’t know to run a system we don’t understand isn’t exactly the best example of democracy but it does remind us how important honesty and transparency is between a government and its people.  Without good information, we can’t make good decisions and if we aren’t equipped with the information necessary to elect good leaders, where exactly does that leave us?  And yet honesty seems more scarce in politics than in any other profession.  Maybe this is what happens to lawyers when they don’t have to worry about perjury anymore.

We need to move beyond this idea that being uninformed makes us safer.  We need to move beyond this notion of the government taking measures to make us ‘feel’ safer at the expense of being less informed.  We need the government to stop treating us like kids and start treating us like equals and that starts with telling us WTF is actually going on.

I’m putting some brain power towards figuring out how to build an honest democracy that just doesn’t just hold itself accountable to the public, but also engages the collective thoughts and wisdom of its people on a regular basis.  I’m making progress.. might be ready in time for Mars.


Honest Modesty

There’s a fantastic quote from Bruce Lee, “If I tell you I am good, probably you will say I am boasting.  But if I tell you I’m not good, you’ll know I’m lying.”

By most people’s standards, Bruce Lee wasn’t just good, he was one of the best to ever do what he did.  But if he were to say that, then he risks being labelled as boastful.  Why?

The Rick side of me wants to say that those with insecurities about their own abilities would prefer that high achievers understate their skills and accomplishments to minimize feelings of inadequacy and inferiority.  They key word there being feel.

The more patient side of me thinks there’s another level to this.  Honesty is communication in it’s most accurate form.  When you’re being honest with others, you’re giving them the most accurate version of the information you have.  When you’re being honest with yourself, you’re looking at the most accurate version of yourself.  As working with accurate information is always more efficient than working with inaccurate information, honesty is key to an efficient life.

I also value modesty.  For me, modesty is a perpetual state of mind in which I remind myself that there’s always more room to grow and that what I’ve accomplished isn’t nearly as important as what I’m working towards.  Google’s definition of modesty is an unassuming or moderate estimation of one’s abilities.  I can work with that.

Unassuming and moderate are worth exploring here.  For me, unassuming means knowing your value, but also leaving your mind open for the things you don’t know.  For example, an unassuming fighter would know the techniques they’re best at, but wouldn’t assume to know how successful they would be against a hypothetical opponent.

In a universe with nearly infinite variables – most of which are unknown to us – any prediction of the future is an assumption.  Being unassuming is simply a more honest and accurate understanding of yourself and the universe you exist within.  Being moderate, in this case, could probably be defined as without bias.  Without a desire to understate or overstate one’s abilities, the middle ground would be a moderate estimation – again, the most honest and accurate understanding.

Perhaps there will always be people who would prefer that high achievers keep their achievements to themselves to minimize feelings of insecurity.  For the rest of us however, I think it’s important to understand that modesty isn’t a function of class, or making others feel better about themselves, it’s a function of honesty and accuracy.

If you’re great, be great, do great.