Best of Balaji

Citizen Journalism (v1)

Some of Balaji's core ideas around decentralized media revolve around Citizen Journalism.

4) You are an expert in something. You have a responsibility as a citizen to do citizen journalism, to share that with the world

5) The media should not be “guardians of democracy” nor “enemies of the people”. Neither guardian nor enemy, just the people. All citizen journalists.

— (@balajis) March 30, 2020

With citizen journalism, Balaji means individuals outside of institutions taking it upon themselves to write about topics they are experts on.

Why would we need citizen journalism? Because for certain topics you need a highly technical background to cover them.

Why citizen journalism?

Because the most important news about TikTok came from an individual with a technical background posting on Reddit.

— (@balajis) July 12, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic made the case for citizen journalism even stronger. Many media companies initially dismissed the threat of the coronavirus (30:03), and made fun of Tech people who took it seriously.

The Vox Doctrine

Media companies are profiting from a crisis they helped create. Vox/Recode dismissed the pandemic, scorned precautions, told you not to wear masks, even attacked philanthrophy!

Now they're setting traffic records.

Need citizen journalism, not corporate media.

— (@balajis) April 9, 2020

In some cases, citizen journalism could literally save lives.

It has also changed my mind on something, or at least changed priority. I now think it is *crucial* that people with scientific & engineering backgrounds (a) engage in citizen journalism and (b) attain political office.

Can't do rear-wheel drive anymore. Life or death situation.

— (@balajis) April 13, 2020

Experts in a certain topic should be the ones writing about that topic. We need people with technological backgrounds publishing.

What I’ve realized over the last few weeks is that you can’t give media and political elites an intuition for math and science overnight.

Purely verbal people tend to discount any kind of exponential projection as unrealistic, *even if* shown data.

— (@balajis) March 6, 2020

If you have STEM background, going into tech was obvious choice.

But all those individually rational decisions have leached all technical acumen out of press & state.

Step 1 in rectifying this: citizen journalism by STEM folks. Takes time, but is needed.

— (@balajis) March 31, 2020

The idea is that citizen journalists publish out of a sense of civic duty.

Thanks. To be fair, this is actually an NYT link! There is good and bad journalism.

I've also been thinking more that it is our *responsibility* to do (eg) a year of citizen journalism each. Otherwise we have a critical deficit of writers with scientific & technical backgrounds.

— (@balajis) March 5, 2020

That’s the point actually: citizen journalists have a day job. The journalism is part-time, something they do out of a sense of civic responsibility.

It’s not their personal business model. And so they need not mouth just-the-flu groupthink just to eat.

— (@balajis) March 30, 2020

Because citizen journalists are not dependent on their posts for their income, they can have different incentives than legacy media companies. Truth and differentiation can be incentivized.

With regards to truth, citizen journalism would include decentralized factchecking, enabled by the ledger of record.

I think the second part of citizen journalism is reproducible journalism, based on decentralized fact checking.

This involves some new culture (citation of all sources, github-style corrections, etc) and some new technology. See this thread for details.

— (@balajis) April 30, 2020

Crypto oracles will drive this. People are setting up oracles to place bets on everything from average temperatures to arrival times.

All that data gets fed into public chains, and hashed with cryptographically hard-to-fake timestamps. So you know who wrote what when on chain.

— (@balajis) December 30, 2019

And this is how Balaji argues differentiation will be incentivized:

By the way, the Substack model incentivizes writers to differentiate rather than all repeat the same thing.

That’s good for original writers and bad for centralized narratives.

Individual monetization, distribution, reputation, content: that’s how we decentralize media.

— (@balajis) March 30, 2020

The internet turned everyone into publishers. You can now own your own distribution. And cryptocurrencies enable you to separate your real name from your income. These are all beneficial developments for citizen journalists.

I believe in citizen journalism for the same reason I believe in the solo developer.

Satoshi showed what one person can do. So did Snowden.

In 2013, Snowden needed the help of the (courageous) @ggreenwald, but the next Snowden could go full stack. Do the whole thing themselves.

— (@balajis) July 11, 2020

The lines between media and citizens are fading. Citizen as journalists, and every company a media company.

Point being that the concept of the “press” as a entity distinct from the citizenry at large is going away. Every citizen a citizen journalist.

And just as NYT is becoming a tech company, tech firms are building media arms. Every company a media company.

— (@balajis) October 6, 2020

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