Sowing the Seeds of Crypto Confusion
As bitcoin reached record highs in December, the mainstream coverage grew to a crescendo. Suddenly everyone from mom to the metaphorical shoeshine boy had an opinion on cryptocurrency as the masses wired their deposits to Coinbase to get some skin in the game. When the markets started to fall in January, these new adopters got burned the worst. Many were stunned to see their rapidly diminishing portfolios, and a number quit altogether, electing to sell at a loss rather than endure more financial agony.
Mainstream media aren’t to blame for the price of bitcoin, and can be forgiven for getting swept up in the crypto mania that was unavoidable for a while. Reporting on the news is their job after all, and for a while the news was “Everyone’s buying bitcoin and it keeps going up”. What’s less forgivable is the recklessness of much of the reporting. Established outlets such as the New York Times, Bloomberg, and Reuters, while not perfect, have the resources to provide proper coverage of the crypto space. But less reputable rags have also piled in, and their breathless reporting is often woeful.
Crypto Gibberish from the Tabloid Press
In the UK, three mainstream publications have excelled themselves when it comes to clueless crypto coverage – the Mail Online, Sky News, and the Express. In one article this week, detailing bitcoin’s slide, the Express featured related ads and articles that urged readers not to buy ethereum, to buy ripple, to look into a bitcoin pension and to learn more about bitcoin ‘skyrocketing’ 25% in 24 hours. Is it any wonder that casual readers have no idea what’s actually happening? The same ads aren’t unique to mainstream media sites either – Coindesk has also come into criticism for hosting similar clickbait ads alongside its news stories.
Even if the contradictory ads are overlooked, the quality of reporting from outlets such as the Express is hopelessly misinformed:
This is the same publication that recently claimed ripple to be a mineable cryptocurrency. This week, Sky News also published – as straight news – a press release for a new ICO headed by notorious British businesswoman Michelle Mone. The Scottish lingerie entrepreneur has a string of failed ventures and dubious business practises to her name, but there was no mention of that in the story, which has since been deleted, but is still available as a cached version. Titled “I hope my new cryptocurrency encourages women to invest in tech”, it bears the strapline “Baroness Michelle Mone launches cryptocurrency Equi which will allow the public to invest in tech start-ups”.
Whatever her ICO may be, it has nothing do with helping women. The piece is riddled with preposterous claims that crypto heads would see through instantly, but that could easily hoodwink newcomers including the women the project is supposedly designed for.
Accurately reporting on the cryptocurrency space requires journalists with the requisite knowledge and expertise. Otherwise, not only are these platforms misleading their readers – they’re potentially defrauding them. While the ‘fake news’ meme has caused the public to be more sceptical of the information they’re fed, the majority still presume that if a story’s on an established site, it must be true. If media outlets can’t tell the difference between vaporware and legitimate cryptocurrencies, and don’t understand things such as market cap and total circulating supply, they should refrain from dispensing investment advice or enlist reporters who can.