The Wall Street Journal

Financial publication creates (and destroys) its own virtual currency for the sake of good journalism!

It’s no secret that journalists will go to any lengths to get a good story. So in a bid to get their heads around the world of digital currency, reporters at the famous US business publication, The Wall Street Journal, actually created their own cryptocurrency – all in the name of research! But before you head for your digital wallet, the bad news is the New York-based newspaper has destroyed its own virtual coin and has no further intentions of trading in crypto, the exercise was purely for research purposes.

The idea was the brainchild of journalist Steven Russolillo who wanted to understand how crypto works before writing informative financial articles on the subject. The newspaper, which is published six days a week by Dow Jones & Company, a division of News Corp and is read internationally, produced its very own WSJ Coin which made it to the grand total of two issued units which were taken to a local pub to pay for two well-earned beers.

Russolillo joined forces with Makuto Takemiya, computer scientist and co-founder and of Soramitsu, a Japanese fintech company specialising in blockchain technology. He is also one of the lead programmers and architects of Hyperledger Iroha, a distributed ledger project. Together they used Hyperledger’s Iroha blockchain as the foundation for the WSJ Coin.

The pair fixed a supply of 8.4 billion units, which they arrived at by averaging the supply of the top ten cryptocurrencies by market cap. A heap of 150 physical WSJ coins were actually produced and passed around an audience who were attending a panel discussion on the publication’s project during the Journal’s D.Live annual technology conference in Hong Kong.

Guest speakers on the panel included Elizabeth Rossiello, chief executive officer at BitPesa remittance service, Stefan Thomas, former chief technology officer at Ripple currency exchange and remittance network who both said they could see a real benefit in a journalism-based crypto asset.

Thomas mused:

“If you lower the cost of moving money around, the entire economy changes … ‘How do I pay for a news article online?’ changes…”

However, WSJ made it clear that they had no plans to continue producing coins and the head of ethics, Neil Lipschitz, said the project raised ethical questions and that the newspaper should just stick to what it knows best, investigating and reporting.

Lipschitz stated:

“We’re not in the business of getting into the cryptocurrency world; we’re here to report it and to explain it, just like we report on banks but we don’t go out and start a bank. We’re not going to create a currency.”

During the process of creating their own crypto coin, Russolillo investigated the background to blockchain which experienced a big boom in 2017, as well as the technology, market conditions, challenges for the industry, regulations and security issues, such as hacking.

This research took Russolillo on a journey all the way to Japan, where cryptocurrency is very popular, to find out how to go about creating a crypto coin. The next step was to find traders who would accept the new WSJ coin as payment.

Russolillo met some very fascinating characters and crypto enthusiasts along the way, including a girlband who call themselves the ‘Virtual Currency Girls.’ He discovered that, despite the initial mania surrounding crypto fizzling out somewhat, there is still a huge interest in digital currency and blockchain technology.

By Joy Lewis.