Local news coverage is getting more options here in Beacon and the Hudson Valley. Luminary Media, the creators of longtime favorite for the arts, Chronogram, have launched an online “newsroom” to add to local coverage for the Hudson Valley.
Driving their mission is expanding access to local news. According to their About page: “Locally, we’re fortunate to have some great community-based local weeklies, owned and created in the Hudson Valley. But only some of our communities are lucky in this way. In fact, many areas in the Hudson Valley have no local coverage, and others don’t have more community coverage than afforded by the police blotter or random Facebook posts.”
The River promises to provide coverage “from Newburgh to Hudson, from Woodstock to Beacon.” You can visit it anytime on their website, or subscribe to it via their newsletter. Of course Beacon has local news outlets like A Little Beacon Blog (minus the police blotter… We don’t get into that), Highlands Current, The Beacon Free Press (though not online much), The Valley Table (based on Main Street Beacon), edible Hudson Valley, The Poughkeepsie Journal (though you can hardly read the articles between the video and ad pop-ups, and they throttle number of articles), News Channel 12 (on channel 63 on cable), and engaging Instagram accounts like EatingBeacon and Beacon Transplant.
The River Is A Newsroom On Civil, A Blockchain Newsroom Of The People
Journalism as a whole is always evolving. Local journalism is always evolving extra quickly, fighting to survive, sometimes with funding, sometimes without. Sometimes local journalists write for free, sometimes there are sponsors and advertising campaigns that help it all continue. Local journalism is actually super fun to be involved in.
However, in order to keep doing it, publications need to get creative in how they get funding. Enter a new media company, Civil, a “blockchain” newsroom powered by cryptocurrency with no ownership: Well, no ownership in theory… There’s a constitution explaining this, and a work-in-progress Beginner’s Guide that is a public Google Doc explaining how it works.
The River is a newsroom running on Civil, which is a company started by journalists and marketing professionals, inspired by decades of events that cloud publishing and advertising. Most recently, sadly, the total wiping out of huge local media companies Gothamist and DNAInfo. The publisher of these online publications didn’t want his editors and journalists to unionize, and in a tizzy, took them offline, wiping out history of local coverage including real estate development disputes, landlord investigations, politics, events, openings, new business stories, and more. Poof, gone. Years of journalists’ work was wiped out. Which gives rise to print and local newspapers that often get underappreciated, yet archived in libraries.
Later, WNYC and two other public radio stations acquired Gothamist, and the articles and radio stories have only gotten richer. The archives of Gothamist and DNAInfo did reappear online, and some folks from DNAInfo started something new called Block Club Chicago, which also is an official newsroom on Civil.
So journalists today are pretty emotionally and professionally damaged by the decisions of some publishers, and it is no wonder why they seek a publisher-free news outlet on which to publish their stories. According to Civil’s CEO, “Civil is building a newsroom platform using blockchain technology and cryptoeconomics to create an open marketplace for journalists and citizens. In Civil’s self-governing marketplace, readers may directly sponsor journalists, and journalists collaboratively run their own publications, called Newsrooms.”
Will This New Blockchain Newsroom Work?
Anything blockchain-related seems to be pretty high-concept. The premise behind an ad-free newsroom is noble, but as with everything, decisions come down to people and relationships. Even if a journalist is sponsored by a citizen, that citizen may accumulate a lot of special dollars-not-dollars called CVL Tokens, which is Civil’s currency in how journalists get paid.
We are witnessing a destabilization of social media-based gathering places for information - which started out as a hands-off, uncensored way to micro-publish information by anyone. However, we are witnessing a change, as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and others are removing posts and accounts. Some regular-person admins of groups enact grand gestures of power by locking a group or deleting it entirely, thereby paralyzing anyone who had posts on it that wants them removed and cannot, as per Facebook’s rules. The overuse or misuse of power may not only reside with publishers, and may be a human thing.
In the meantime, The River’s new source of news is a welcome addition to what we can find out about facets of life here in the Hudson Valley. Go sign up.