JournoDAO attended the ONA23 conference last week to talk about two core missions of our DAO; 1) how decentralization and blockchain can help protect the industry from the waves of AI disinformation filling our timelines and 2) how do we restore journalism at the local level using decentralized technology stacks to protect our communities from the perilous impacts of news deserts. After having just spent the summer in Paris, post ETHCC and ETHGlobal Paris, and being accustomed to ETH conferences, filled with Bufficorns, ping pong tables and puppy lounges, the difference was dramatic. And hilarious.
Well over a decade has passed since I last attended a journalism conference. The serious faces, the people sitting on the floor, working on laptops in the hallways submitting articles on deadline and the release at the end of the day with cocktails and industry talk. For almost 20 years, news conferences were my way to see the industry at large and mingle with some of the most amazing, fascinating and focused group of people possible.
The Online News Association throws one of the largest news events in the country on a yearly basis. Our DAO spoke in 2022 as well, just before FTX ignited most of the positive sentiment we'd built bridging journalists from web2 to web3 and turned many of our efforts into ashes. We were the only DAO at the event this year, and probably the only web3 folks still trying to show the news industry what's possible at that event. A few hints and whispers of "blockchain without the crypto" were mentioned in the context of data storage and AI, but that's really about it.
Being early adopters is one thing. Doing so in an industry that is filled with some of the most brilliant and skeptical people on the planet, who's job is to literally poke holes in every possible theory you might hold dear, is some next level stubbornness. But here we are-- and here we continue to stand-- each and every day.
As the Director of Community at Consensys, I now dance in two very closely intertwined, but drastically different ecosystems. On the one hand, I work at one of the most powerful web3 corporations in the world with the most brilliant minds shaping the future of the internet and on the other hand, I am a founding member of an obscure little journalism DAO that has managed to survive the bear market and maintained a deep familial vibe in the midst of straight chaos. We often joke that our DAO is held together by an intense mutual mission and inappropriate GenX humor (and our fabulous GenZ who both appreciates our humor and is an old soul himself). Fart jokes are the glue that binds us.
I'm often asked if DAOs are worth it? I always say yes, but watching so many dissolve in this brutal market, I've lately had a nagging thought in the back of mind that, while they are worth it, they might not be viable. In Philly last week at ONA, I got to see why DAOs do matter. In real time and in an industry that desperately needs help and that I care deeply about.
We journalists are a rare an stubborn breed. So are web3 native/Impact DAO people. We're more alike than we are different-- we just speak different languages. At the end of the day, we're both using the tools we understand to try and change people's lives.
Seeing our DAO do talks and lead a panel on how decentralization can help restore local journalism was powerful. And while the attendance wasn't large, the questions were thoughtful. Relevant. The people who did show up are in positions of action and power in the industry and their questions gave me a little hope. Some people were willing to listen.
Holding the knowledge of almost a decade of working with this technology allowed us to answer questions that no one else at this conference could even come close to understanding, much less answer. I couldn't help but think that in 5 or 10 years, such a conference will be filled with journalists and traditional media outlets that will have completely decentralized-- out of necessity.
About 15 years ago, these same industry conferences were filled with skeptical journalists and media outlets saying that digital news, citizen journalists, digital photography, paywalls and social media were all fads and not for serious journalists. I know, I was in the room. While I didn't believe them and knew something was coming-- I wanted to believe that things could stay the same. That I could still get the news print of record delivered to my doorstep every morning and catch up on the world while sipping my coffee and having the faint stains of ink on my fingers for a few hours. They were wrong. And those who failed to adopt or embrace the digital world collapsed.
Those who failed to step in front of the technological wave drowned underneath it and we, as a society, pay that price every single day. Our media industry is on life support because it failed to embrace the change that was barreling towards it at warp speed over 2 decades ago.
One of the reasons I do this work is because I want to be part of the solution when this technological tsunami overwhelms my former colleagues. And to be clear, it is. NOW. While the situation was precarious a year ago, the rapid rise of AI coupled with the purchase of Twitter by Musk has amplified the tsunami by 10 fold. And newsrooms, no matter how large, are simply unprepared to face this reality.
The beauty of the position I find myself within is that I work for a company that can create literal solutions for news rooms around the globe and I collaborate within a DAO that can educate and onboard the industry to use those very tools.
Last week I saw a deeper merging of my professional and my DAO world with a clarity I hadn't anticipated. I am beyond grateful to dance between these two worlds every day. And while some days I trip over my own feet or fall flat on my ass, most days I fall asleep content with the knowledge that I am doing something small every day to make the world better. And that eventually, love will win.
As always, I felt the need to document our little foray into trad media for the week. Here’s some images from the conference and the lovely evenings wandering Philly contemplating life’s big questions-- like Verbs and black holes.