SingularDTV’s Commitment to Journalistic Integrity, Civil’s Success and Breaker Mag
By CEO of SingularDTV, Zach LeBeau
I keep hearing about Civil’s “failure” since their 30 day token sale ended below the minimum threshold of $8m. It’s a crazy, upside down world we live in if Civil is characterized as a failure — because I believe Civil is already one of blockchain’s great success stories.
I’ve seen token launches and ICOs come and go, millions raised for unrealized promises with no coherent or meaningful mission to make the world a better place. In the so called “failure” of Civil to raise the funds needed to take its mission to the next level, they have never exhibited a more successful sheen than they do now.
Why? Because the strength of Civil’s mission continues to grow despite perceived setbacks and their leadership continues to push onward and upward. The idea of Civil is too important to be stopped. They will launch another token raise, and when they do, SingularDTV will buy CVL tokens to help contribute to their success. Their purpose for being is not only necessary, it is vital — Civil is building a new economy for trustworthy and sustainable journalism. This is something very important to me and to SingularDTV.
In 2013, Kim Jackson and I began the SingularDTV mission of building a decentralized entertainment industry to empower artists and creators. Our goal was to embed intellectual property into data vessels (tokens) on the blockchain and provide an infrastructure so the rights and value flow of that IP can be managed by its creators. This would ensure that artists would never again have to relinquish control over their IP to third parties — intermediaries and distributors. For those in the entertainment industry, retaining control over your IP is the holy grail. We are well on our way to delivering on our promise.
When SingularDTV launched our SNGLS token sale it was a very different time. If we launched our tokenized ecosystem today, we could have failed to meet our minimum threshold just like Civil. We sought to only raise $7.5m worth of ETH (Back in 2016 when we launched ETH was worth $13.27). The value of the 580,000 ETH we raised has grown, allowing us to add more quality and value to our Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
With these additional funds, one of my focuses to enhance our MVP has been to promote trustworthy and sustainable journalism. This mission is what gave birth to Breaker Magazine.
In the summer of 2017, Kim and I connected with Logan Hill and Ben Williams to discuss launching a new type of online magazine that integrates the promises of blockchain with journalism. Logan is an experienced writer and journalist with bylines at GQ, Esquire, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and many more. Ben is the editorial director of New York Magazine’s digital branch, Nymag.com — a four-time winner of the National Magazine Awards prize for best website. Together, Logan and Ben had already launched New York Magazine’s new Vulture web vertical, and thankfully, both decided to join our cause.
The motivation behind Breaker Mag was to raise the standards of writing and reporting in the cryptosphere and promote a better understanding of decentralization and blockchain technology to the masses. I told the founding team that SingularDTV would fund the magazine and that Breaker Mag would have complete autonomy regarding the stories they would publish. I made it clear that SingularDTV would never pressure them to write a single word. We remain committed to keeping that promise of integrity and honor, words and concepts that may seem foreign these days, but that I believe are the guiding lights of responsible journalism.
Adding a decentralizing mindset to this promise helps to instill political agnosticism and the ability to analyze a subject from several different perspectives. If decentralization has taught me anything, it’s to bring people from differing parts of the political spectrum to the same table for the purpose of leading us into a mutually beneficial future free from partisanship and unilateral agenda. This may sound naive and idealistic in our present climate, but I see it as pragmatic. I’ll refer to what Michael Jordan said when he refused to endorse a Democrat against Republican Senator Jesse Helms in his home state of North Carolina, “Republicans buy sneakers too.” Blockchain is for everyone, access to blockchain is for everyone and an impartial magazine with political diversity is necessary.
The other day a highly esteemed academic institution refused to be involved with a story Breaker Mag was writing. Why? Because they regarded Breaker Mag as no more than branded content to promote the SingularDTV organization.
I was shocked, not only because of the inaccuracy of the statement, but because an institution that I hold in such high esteem, exercised against Breaker Mag and SingularDTV a prejudice that mischaracterized who we are and the integrity and honor of our goals. What this academic institution was unable to grasp was the fact that support from SingularDTV helps, rather than hinders, the ability of Breaker Mag reporters to pursue honest journalism. Despite examples to the contrary, it seemed they were unable to trust that such a relationship could come without undue influence. This was a knee-jerk reaction by this institution, and after a dialogue where Breaker Mag clarified their dynamic with SingularDTV, they opened up to us.
But the separation of “church and state” that SingularDTV and Breaker Mag adhere to isn’t novel, it’s part of a relatively new but fruitful path in philanthropic funding of digital journalism. One well known example is First Look Media, created by billionaire eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, which is parent company to The Intercept. Founded by the highly regarded journalists Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill, The Intercept has produced hard-hitting reports on NSA surveillance, the expansion of the drone strike program, and potential war crimes committed by US military units, among other things. In those examples, removing the need to chase advertising dollars gave The Intercept’s team the freedom they needed to conduct investigative work without worrying about how many clicks it would generate.
Though the staff of the academic institution referred to above shouldn’t be blamed for their original instinct, which was to preserve editorial integrity, it’s an extreme irony to speak only with outlets that rely on relationships with networks of advertisers and corporate sponsors from across the industry, while blocking an interview with an outlet that has one openly declared funding body.
Breaker Mag isn’t based on political agendas, nor on SingularDTV’s agenda. If critics want to dispute that, which of course they’re entitled to, they should be able to point to more than the financial relationship between the two entities. Breaker Mag is based on the perspective of its writers and editors — which provides a diversity of scope — but more than that, it is based on integrity (that word again), careful reporting and a desire to document the evolution of decentralization and blockchain technology.
SingularDTV and Breaker Mag can be something that is extremely rare in this highly political, ultra-capitalistic world we live in. We have the opportunity to embody the ethos of decentralization and express this to the public — a new democratic process of decision making, fueled by objectivity, and a truthful representation of how people and entities should interact together to achieve mutually beneficial goals.
Too many people and companies are afraid to make bold public statements and take clear stances because most don’t have the courage to deal with the unintended consequences. Too many can’t live up to what they promise. We can. We can make public statements that are bold because we are a new kind of company, exhibiting a new way of thinking, one that protects journalistic integrity without agenda. No matter what the unintended consequences are, we can stand up to them because our actions are aligned with our ethos.
Breaker Mag isn’t something that is embodied by the writers that serve it, no, it is a lofty, principled idea — similar to Civil — where the reporters, journalists and writers must rise to its ideals, not the other way around. From what I’ve seen of Civil, its ethos and principles are parallel to ours. And as Civil and Breaker Mag mature, and our networks intersect, we look forward to supporting our shared mission to build a new economy for trustworthy and sustainable journalism.