Brooklyn’s newest newsroom wants to uncover government fraud (and be funded on the blockchain)

Sludge will be led by civic technologist David Moore and journalist Donald Shaw.

Could this become the tech startup hub of Newark?

(Courtesy photo)

Is journalism’s new economic model here?

Blockchain-based journalism startup Civil announced its newest newsroom Friday, called Sludge. The publication, led by longtime civic technologist David Moore and journalist Donald Shaw, will report on political funding, lobbyist influence, and policymaking.

“We’re looking to expose the hidden networks of lobbying and influence that work to undermine the policymaking process,” Moore explained by phone Monday. “We’re interested in power mapping and telling the deeper stories behind campaign contributions.”

Sludge will appear on the Civil platform, the Brooklyn startup that aims to be a publisher for newsrooms based on the blockchain. The idea is that each Civil publication will have its own community of readers, who will pay for subscriptions to the newsrooms of their choice via Civil’s token, CVL. (Update, 1/23/18, 3:13 p.m.: Sludge, and other Civil newsrooms, will also accept USD.)

Readers can also be involved in the editing and governance of the publications, which might take the form of voting on which stories the reporters ought to pursue or what the governance structure of the publication ought to look look like. The publication will also archive all its stories on the Civil blockchain (which is a spoke on the greater Ethereum blockchain.)

“It’s the same way that an Amazon or eBay would be an attractive place for an ecommerce vendor,” Civil spokesman and cofounder Matt Coolidge explained by phone Monday. “We have a number of other newsrooms we’re about to announce. One of the value propositions is going to be that there will be complementary audiences.”


Earlier this month, Moore handed his last project, NYC Councilmatic, over to the city council, in a rare example of civic tech becoming civic infrastructure. The site had been a watchdog site of sorts, publishing the votes and documents of every city council vote and committee, and the text of every piece of legislation. Users could sign up for email notification on specific issues, legislators, or bills they’re interested in. Now that NYC Councilmatic has become an official city council website, Moore is turning his focus to the national scale.

“We want to represent the public interest in the policymaking process,” he said.

Civil raised $2.5 million in capital in October and Coolidge said $1 million of that will be used for startup funding for its newsrooms as they’re getting off the ground. So far, Civil has five newsrooms listed on its website, including Popula, which will be run by Maria Bustillos and has hired former New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones.

Coolidge said Civil expects its newsrooms to begin publishing in the spring.

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