How Sludge can localize our investigative journalism with Prog Code Network

Some of the open-source innovations of Civil publishing platform, with optional blockchain & cryptocurrency features for independent media

In August, I was fortunate to be video interviewed by Pamela of Progressive Coders Network about our new investigative journalism website, Sludge.

Sludge’s focus is on money in politics, dark money in elections, and the shadowy influence of special interests and corporate lobbyists over policy making–topics of hopeful interest to Prog Code members and open-source civic hackers. Our research exposing systemic corruption in politics goes back to our work from 2007–2013 on our OpenCongress transparency website.

But also, I sought to convey to viewers that Sludge’s publishing platform, Civil, will soon be open to new newsroom applications, as another option for independent media on the open internet–plus, features for publishing to the Ethereum blockchain and more.

Civil is designed to sustain independent journalism, with an emphasis on local news and policy or investigative journalism. But within that framework, there are lot of ways that Prog Code members can make use of the platforms’ features. It’s built on (almost entirely) open-source code, with distributed archiving to the Ethereum blockchain and/or the IPFS peer-to-peer protocol.

One of the first ways I’d like to highlight is by localizing Sludge-style reporting on state house lobbying and industry influence. City residents are widely affected by state government legislative issues, where greater public-interest coverage of policy making process is needed for civic engagement and good government outcomes. (Lobbyists typically would prefer a more-closed process–for example, against community broadband and net neutrality).

Typing as one of the newsrooms already publishing on Civil, not as a Civil employee, Prog Code Network members in cities and states will soon be able to band together with Sludge to create smart contracts for reporting projects. This journalism work (and it must be ethical) can be crowdfunded and executed using forthcoming Civil tokens on the platform, finding and harnessing additional freelancer or technical reporting skills from the forthcoming Civil marketplace. Journalists and newsrooms conducting these reporting projects must stay in good standing on Civil platform’s token-curated registry, according to the journalistic standards of the Civil Constitution, to remain white-listed for smart contracts with CVL tokens.

New local newsrooms, featuring contributions from Prog Code Network developers and volunteers and organizers and writers, can stake their application to join the Civil network and gain access to publishing tools. As this initial phase of the public token sale winds up (for a section of the total overall CVL tokens), Prog Code projects might consider Civil as a useful option for self-publishing their local news, following the Civil Constitution’s ethical journalistic standards, and pursuing their own paths of subscription and/or membership revenue from reader donations for newsroom sustainability. To be clear, Civil newsrooms are decentralized–they’re owned and operated entirely independently, and Civil does not take any fees from CVL token transactions with newsrooms (the Civil Media Company plans to make money through other content & licensing tools, as well as Ethereum publishing tools)–which is just how one would design a system for independent media.

Get in touch to discuss partnering with Sludge on investigations in your area, we’re easy to reach and eager to talk–or for ideas on starting-up a policy publication on Civil, or to connect with local reporters on starting up a neighborhood news site. From Civil’s foundation of decentralized & open tech, and the Civil network’s participatory self-governance through a token-curated registry, more quality news and investigative journalism can be published, shared, and supported.

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Co-founder ReadSludge.com, investigative journalism on money in politics. Previously: OpenCongress, AskThem, Councilmatic.

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David Moore

Co-founder ReadSludge.com, investigative journalism on money in politics. Previously: OpenCongress, AskThem, Councilmatic.