Is it ethical for journalists covering Bitcoin to own it? Debate ensues, IRS ruling evoked

In a recent article on Linkedin Publishing, Michael del Castillo argues that reporters shouldn’t use Bitcoin because it can influence

In a recent article on Linkedin Publishing, Michael del Castillo argues that reporters shouldn’t use Bitcoin because it can influence their objectivity and stories they write about.

Jon Matonis, executive director of Bitcoin Foundation, disagreed:

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“Michael, that is a very shallow viewpoint. It’s like saying people who write about USD and monetary policy shouldn’t own dollars. Get real.”

Acknowledging Matonis for the best argument thus far against his position, del Castillo amended his original position to differentiate between currency, which Matonis was referring to, and property. In March, the IRS classified Bitcoin and virtual currencies as such. Thus, Bitcoin reporters with holdings are likened to holders of Procter & Gamble stock and then reporting on it. Such a practice “falls into the category of conflict of interest for reporters, and such conflicts have long been down upon in the media.”

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He also mentions the importance of reporters disclosing their holdings. Such disclosures are commonly found on various blogs/forums, where an author can often make strong arguments in support of or against a particular stock.

He also cites the highly transparent approach by Kara Swisher, co-executive editor of Re/code, who mentions potential points of conflict of interest and even details her stock portfolio holdings.

My 2 satoshi: Perhaps the next generation of cryptocurrency can solve this problem. A closed system would govern a transparent approach to reporting, which is disseminated out of a decentralized ledger whose contributors and holdings are transparent to all. This would go beyond the current regimen of disclosure, which really amounts to trusting someone (usually a stranger) not to harbor a conflict of interest just because they say so.

Some crypto projects are working on trust categories or reputation-based systems. When it comes to reporters and their holdings, we’re concerned about facts of the past, not (necessarily) their trustworthiness in the future, so such a system doesn’t even have to rely on any level of trust. Now that I’ve pumped it, we just need someone to invent it…

Disclosure: I have no positions in Bitcoin or related instruments, and do not plan on initiating any within the next 72 hours.

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