More on CoinTelegraph By a Former Writer

Ian DeMartino
Aug 17, 2015 · 11 min read
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[Edit: I also published this article on ZapChain, you can join the on-going discussion there if you would like.]

Media has an essential function inside any niche. Every community has its power structure and as soon as that niche grows enough to support us, the media has an obligation to repay that support by illuminating the truth, not further clouding it.

CoinTelegraph’s secrecy, which extends beyond its readers and onto its stable of writers, creates an atmosphere that discourages any illumination of the truth. You can’t justly call on the powerful to come out of the shadows if you stand in them yourself.

While some have cast doubt on my assertion, I have no doubt that CoinTelegraph was funded by Bytecoin from at least when I started and continues to get funding from the stable of CryptoNote coins, among other clients.

My suspicion is that someone close to the Bytecoin team, perhaps the Bytecoin team itself, owns CoinTelegraph. But it could be as CryptoCoinNews P. H. Madore proposed, that they are simply funded by MinerGate, which they certainly have connections to.

If I am right or wrong about my suspicions is not really the point. That is sort of counter-intuitive because being correct is normally the most important aspect of journalism. But CoinTelegraph is the press. Their readers shouldn’t have to depend on leaks and former writers to reveal the things they can most easily reveal.

As an alleged journalistic outlet, CoinTelegraph’s main function is to illuminate hidden areas of Bitcoin for its users and investors. That can take the form of highlighting new and innovative but lesser known technologies, or by revealing the dark secrets of the power structure already in place, but the goal is always the same: reveal things to the public that they are not aware of.

CoinTelegraph, not myself, not other journalists, has an obligation to their readers to reveal what is closest to them. You cannot light a candle in a dark room without revealing where you stand. It is time we find out where CoinTelegraph stands.

In distracting from the fundamental question of who owns and funds them, CoinTelegraph attempts to deflect the question by appealing to the ideological concepts behind bitcoin. “The ownership is decentralized” they’ll say out of one side of their mouth, but then contend that the investors are anonymous, like Satoshi.

The writers aren’t anonymous. The middle managers aren’t anonymous. The pretend CEO isn’t anonymous. The actual boss is pseudonymous. The only people truly anonymous are the supposed owners, and if they are decentralized, then it is behind the curtain of secrecy and none of the writers or readers, nor anyone else as far as I am aware, have been asked to participate in that ownership.

CoinTelegraph has made a lot of money. More than $433,000 worth of bitcoin has moved through their account. That has not been passed on to their writers in any meaningful way. Even when things were good at CoinTelegraph, the top writer rarely received over $500 and pay only went down from there.

The truth is that there are a large number of revolving middle managers without defined roles and their hiring process is a mystery to their writers. Even those taken from the writers pool and considered for “management” like myself and another former editor and writer, are kept on the outside when it comes to decisions and are given no actual insights to the inner workings of CoinTelegraph.

A Russian named Dime does run everything, and he may be the owner like Jackson Palmer contended. The problem is that us writers don’t know Dime’s last name, nor what his connection is with Bytecoin’s creators, people I was told CoinTelegraph knew personally.

Dime may actually be the owner of CoinTelegraph, but the problem is that no one, including the writers, are aware if that is the case, nor what his connection to Bytecoin is. We don’t know if he is the owner or yet another figurehead placed in front the public and employees, pending replacement whenever the “powers that be” decide that is prudent.

It wouldn’t be the first time. Maria Jones, officially the “general manager” of CoinTelegraph was once touted as our boss, and the public already knows about Toni Lane Casserly, who proudly toured conferences while contending that she was the CEO of CoinTelegraph, at a time when writers were told to ignore her.

Fake owners and revolving people of authority is as much of a CoinTelegraph trademark as their article art.

It goes beyond simple conflicts of interest, CoinTelegraph’s leadership has no sense of journalistic integrity.

When they tasked me with editing other writer’s work, things became very concerning to me. One writer, Bogdam, was a French fellow with a tenuous grasp of the English language. While editing his articles, I would read paragraphs that were disjointed and included massively incorrect sentence structure. Then, there would be paragraphs that sounded like they were written by Mark Twain by comparison. It wasn’t hard to figure out which paragraphs were plagiarized.

Having discovered this, I went to the management and informed them that we would have to let Bogdam go. Instead of firing him , they asked me to “teach” him not to plagiarize. Surely, by the time someone is in their mid-twenties and is working for a media organization, he should know not to copy & paste other articles. There are multiple examples of articles by him, still present on CoinTelegraph, that include plagiarism.

After confronting and educating Bogdam, I put extra effort into checking each of his articles. His next article was again plagiarized, this time with the grade-school method of copying an article sentence for sentence but changing a few of the nouns and adjectives around in hopes of throwing off any sleuths. I explained to him again that this is unacceptable and stressed my technique of taking notes from articles and then re-writing from those notes rather than from the articles themselves. Again, I reiterated to CoinTelegraph’s management that he needed to be fired immediately, for the good of CoinTelegraph and for every other writer that works there.

Plagiarism is the most toxic thing you can do in the industry and if you are caught, the blow back doesn’t just get on the writer who wrote the article but it also reflects badly on every writer who writes for a publication that would allow that.

After weeks of arguing with management, they finally fired him. They never admitted to me that the firing was because he was caught plagiarizing. One day he was there and the next, they quietly informed us that he wasn’t writing for us any longer. They never thanked me for preventing an potentially embarrassing situation for the site. Instead, I got the feeling that they were annoyed by my (relative to the editors that came before me) stringent standards.

But not plagiarizing isn’t a stringent standard, it is the lowest possible place you can put the bar, and CoinTelegraph has not raised that bar since. As recently as August 5, CoinTelegraph published an article with plagiarized elements. The original’s author contacted me because according to him, rather than pull the article after he contacted them about it, they offered him a job, at a time when they are having trouble paying their current stable of writers. The plagiarized article remains up. They added a bit about it being “inspired” by a Reddit post, but that is not an acceptable way to deal with plagiarized material.

During his interview with Evander Smart, who went on the show to defend CoinTelegraph, MadBitcoins wondered out loud if today’s CoinTelegraph is different than the CoinTelegraph I exposed a day earlier. That post shows that their ownership has not changed. It is also worth pointing out that while he had no problems attacking my assertion, he never put forth an alternative theory on who owns CoinTelegraph.

While the financial problems continue, Maria Jones attempts to bring in more money, attempting to sell near worthless “CoinTelegraph Franchises” as if the internet isn’t already accessible around the globe. CoinTelegraph is going through public financial problems, yet she attempts to bring new money into the system by telling people that buying a worthless CoinTelegraph franchise will help them quit their jobs.

If the only thing keeping your product afloat is convincing unsuspecting people to buy into doing the same thing, that is the definition of a pyramid scheme. The post sounds like something the insufferable Josh Garza would have claimed, admittedly with better grammar.

Ultimately, as has been pointed out many times by various observers, CoinTelegraph’s ownership is important because they are the stewards of truth in Cryptocurrency. Journalists have to decide what information is worth presenting to their readers how that information will be presented and just as important: what information doesn’t make it out there.

Readers have to trust that journalists they read have their interests at heart, especially when it comes to a subject that could potentially cost investors tens of thousands of dollars or more. Readers need to feel confident that any information being presented is accurate and any information being ignored is being ignored because it isn’t interesting, not because it embarrasses a sponsor or friend.

Recently, it came to my attention that my interview with the former team at BitNation had been pulled. When I complained, I was ignored for more than a month. When I told Nathan Wosnack about it, he complained, and it got re-published moments later. Not only is CoinTelegraph’s management lacking in journalistic integrity, they have no backbone and are unable to stick by decisions once called out by the public. When they put it back up, CoinTelegraph’s management told me that BitNation had asked that it be taken down, I don’t know how long it was down before I noticed. For their part BitNation denied that they asked for it to be taken down, but there aren’t many other suspects..

How many other articles have been pulled because CoinTelegraph’s partners asked them to and without the writer’s consent? We may never know, but it is clear they value the opinions of their partners more than their writers or readers.

When they still trusted me, they trusted me a lot, and send me instructions such as this one, telling me exactly what kind of information needed to be included in Bytecoin articles

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Here is a screen shot of an anchor file they sent me, in .xml format. They were never that specific for any other clients.

It hardly ended there and they made it very clear to me that while they favored all of the CryptoNote Coins outside of Monero, Bytecoin was their clear favorite and was pumped from nearly the beginning.

Early on, that was the only subject they asked that I cover in a promo fashion, but that client list soon grew. Initially, paid posts were supposed to stay under a business Catalog we were creating. There are hardly any business catalog posts on CoinTelegraph any more and I have my doubts that promo pieces are still confined to that section.

Ultimately, I cannot prove my assertions. It is hardly worth pointing out that I had more evidence, screenshots I saved of Skype conversations, but I neglected to save them when I reinstalled Windows a few months back. For now, the promo instructions and connection to MinerGate, along with the unnatural interest in everything CryptoNote (besides Monero) will have to serve as the only public evidence that CoinTelegraph was either owned or primarily funded by Bytecoin. Yes, CoinTelegraph existed for a few months before ByteCoin was announced on Bitcointalk, but it was in its infancy at that point and while the official story about ByteCoin existing since 2012 is likely false, there certainly was work being done to it for months in advance. CryptoNote technology isn’t nothing, it didn’t just come out of nowhere. In fact, CoinTelegraph’s first articles were published around the same time Bytecoin developers started creating the likely fake backstory for the coin.

There is, of course, also my personal testimony. As an employee that came in during the early days and for a short time was privy to more information than most writers, I am as close as a first hand account as anyone is likely to get. Tone Vays never got that close and neither did Evander Smart. I wrote promotional stuff for other companies, and those articles were all above board, clearly marked as promo and I was allowed as much freedom writing them as could be expected. CryptoNote related coins were the only clients that were different.

What there is enough evidence for everyone to see, is that journalistic integrity is the last priority CoinTelegraph’s management has. From the CryptoNote shilling to Josh Garza defending to pulling down articles at the behest of their friends, they should not be trusted. The only thing that has kept it afloat this long is the personal dedication of the writers, writers who are increasingly screwed over by management.

Problems with pay started long before Evander Smart signed on, and I have full confidence that they are going to continue.

If Bitcoin technology is going to create a new world, it needs transparency, it needs a source of news people can trust. A mysterious organization run by a more mysterious Russian with even more mysterious backers is not an organization that is going to put the truth above anything, much less profits. If they can’t even be truthful with their writers, how can we expect them to be truthful with their readers?

Bitcoin is an amazing technology and if I didn’t think it had the potential to change the world, I wouldn’t be here. But Bitcoin has an Achilles heal and that is the huge number of scams that prey on users of all expertise levels, but effect those new to the community most often.

Worse than having your saving’s value drop because of volatility is having your savings drop to zero because the exchange you held them in was insecure or you invested in a new technology that turned into vaporware. There are a thousand different ways for people to lose their money in Crypto and telling them to be careful is not enough.

It is on the Bitcoin media to make it possible for new users and investors to be careful, by putting out articles that can serve as the basis of their research. Putting out promo articles and pulling truthful ones is the anti-thesis to that goal and yet that is what we see in Bitcoin media all of the time.

The advertising model on the internet is the root of all of this. I have seen it everywhere, not just in CoinTelegraph but in all levels of publishing. Advertising is the world’s most subversive element to art, creativity and truth. Which is why I want to use this opportunity to announce the creation of a brand new site, dedicated to truth and 100% free from advertising, we will attempt to run it on a donation model. I don’t know if a donation model really can be successful, but I think Bitcoin users would like a media outlet they can trust has no ulterior motives. CoinJournal will be something new, something people can trust and base their investments on. We won’t always be perfect, but we will always have your best interests at heart, that is a promise.

Next Tuesday, the 25th, I will be a part of a live Q&A session on ZapChain, which will serve as my last word on CoinTelegraph.

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