Our former fearless leader on his wedding day (via Leo Jakobson).

Goodbye, Modern Consensus

Founding editor Lawrence Lewitinn looks back wistfully over two years of not caring if anyone liked him.

This isn’t an easy post for me to write.

No, it’s not because I’m emotional about my final Modern Consensus post. Rather, it’s because I’m on vacation in Florida and spent much of the day on the beach. It’s snowing back in New York, where I’m headed next. The last thing I want to do on a lovely night like tonight is to write one of these boring, boo-hoo-I’m-no-longer-editor-in-chief kinds of posts.

Alas, Leo Jakobson, my successor at Modern Consensus, insists I do so because I was the co-founder and first editor. I came up with the site’s name and I designed its first iteration. I wrote most of the posts in the early days. It was my thing for two years.

Blah, blah, blah… Big deal. Seriously, no one cares. Whatever. Leo wants me to do this and I guess I owe him one. After all, I just stuck him with my old job.

In late 2017, Ken Kurson came to me with the idea of a cryptocurrency and blockchain news and opinion site. It didn’t have a name yet. The job was literally made with me in mind.

The idea was to make the industry accessible to the many people who were first discovering the sector as the price of bitcoin was skyrocketing. They were being inundated with terrible information, scams, sh*tcoins, and combinations of all three. It was awful out there for newbies and even for those with experience.

Then-editor Lawrence Lewitinn (inset) reacts with deep concern to news that Modern Consensus writer Brendan Sullivan has been subpoenaed (see below) over an exclusive interview with Craig Wright.

What was lacking was a site that told it like it is. Yes, there were news sites with pretty good updates on what was going on. However, there was a dearth of places dealing honestly with readers and willing to make enemies. I had no friends in the industry. In fact, I have few friends in real life because I’m uncomfortable to be around and say the wrong things at the wrong time.

And I really never cared about how I was perceived because as far as I was concerned, I was going to walk out of this right the hell now and go back to trading currencies. The real kinds, I might add. You know, the ones that have pictures of dead prime ministers or living monarchs and can be used to buy a cup of coffee anywhere in the world. Alice and Bob don’t have to wait 10 minutes for a confirmation; just plop down those pieces of paper or metal on the counter and they’ve got 12 ounces of steaming hot jitter juice in their hands faster than they can say “lightning network.”  

I hated going to Blockchain Week parties. I found most projects to be colossal wastes of time that could be replicated by a MySQL database or even a simple spreadsheet. I’d roll my eyes when I’d hear pitches. At events, I only visited booths that gave away T-shirts or had candy, a fact I was open about as I took T-shirts and candy. I didn’t want to hear how you were going to shift the paradigm. You weren’t. Your technology sucked. But your shirt is soft cotton and I need those for my CrossFit workouts. Are those milk chocolates in the shape of bitcoin tokens? I’ll take a dozen, please.

See, I didn’t think of it as burning bridges because I had no intention of crossing them in the first place. I never planned on working in this industry.

For that reason, I was the right person for Ken to have on board to start this thing. I had nothing to fear. And for two years, that was the attitude I tried to instill in all the contributors we’ve had. Get to the bottom of it all and don’t be afraid. This isn’t all there is to life.

For instance, Brendan Sullivan is right now knee deep in lawyers because he went after the Craig Wright story, damn all the bullying and threats from the trolls. Does that mean we think Wright is really Satoshi Nakamoto? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that this is one of the most fascinating stories to happen in crypto and we think it deserves attention, if only to show how wacky the whole industry really is.

Also, no one can talk to Wright the way Brendan can. That’s because Brendan himself is an interesting guy. He does more in a week than anyone else in a year. He has more adventures in a year than anyone else in a lifetime. He had scoops on the Big Bitcoin Heist in Iceland over a year ago because, as all Brendan explanations start, “I know a girl there who’s hooked up.” The guy is like a Lou Bega song come to life.

And Leo Jakobson is the embodiment of the Modern Consensus attitude. Over the summer, a story came out about Mike Tyson getting involved in a sh*tcoin. Something didn’t ring true about it. Leo reached out to Iron Mike’s people and ended up talking to his wife/manager. He got the scoop on how the whole thing was basically bogus. Others covering crypto would have, and did, regurgitate the sh*tcoin’s press release because, hey, you never know if you’ll one day work for these guys. Not Leo. He went after the story and bit its ear off (What, too soon?). That’s why he’s now editor in chief. That and also the fact that he enjoys writing, something I loathe to do.

All this was possible because Ken and our publisher, Kevin Sanders, left us alone. There were several-week stretches where I never spoke to Ken or Kevin. I was never told, “Hey, you need to stop covering this story” or “Good job doing that.” I had barely any feedback. Okay, that’s not true. They always sent checks that cleared. That’s positive feedback in my book.

They gave us complete freedom. That’s a luxury most editors and writers only dream of. Modern Consensus has it. When I had a few family medical emergencies hit, they pitched in only on the things I asked them to handle. Then they stepped back the moment I returned. They never cared where I was or what I was doing, so long as I published regularly and put out quality work. Fun fact: This site was run out of several bars in Portugal, Italy, and England for several weeks last year. And it was also run out of a hospital in New York on a few occasions in return, as gratitude for that kind of autonomy.

Kevin and Ken are stand-up guys. Modern Consensus was the first of several sites in their portfolio called Sea of Reeds Media. They treat other sites the same way. They hire people to be themselves, not to fit job descriptions. They treat everyone like family. I probably could’ve gotten them to babysit my kids if I needed to in a pinch. I spared them the headache but I’m certain they wouldn’t have hesitated. They never lied to me. They never did a bait and switch. If anything, they were even easier on me than they promised they’d be. They once complained I wasn’t spending enough money on contributors. What other media company in the world has that?

No writer or editor deserves that kind of luck. But it’s there. However, it was time for me to move on.

I brought in Leo, who happened to be one of my best friends over the past three decades. He covered Silicon Alley during the dot-com bubble. That experience alone makes him a giant among reporters covering crypto and blockchain today. He has context. He has seen it all before. He knows all the cons and the scams trying to pull the wool over the eyes of investors and consumers. He witnessed it and reported it in a different iteration back when the current sets of scammers were still in preschool.

Over the past few months, Leo has made the site more “his.” If you like it now, most of it is because of Leo. I wouldn’t trust Modern Consensus with anyone else.

The most important thing to do, as a parent, is to let your kids be themselves. That’s something I often forget to do. Except with Modern Consensus. It has grown up. It has a life of its own and a bright future. For it to succeed, I need to step away and let it do its own thing. Visit from time to time, sure, but don’t stick around to do laundry, make the bed, stock the refrigerator, or put lots of money in the bank account. I love you but you’re on your own now, kid.

I’ll be elsewhere starting December 9, doing something somewhat similar but quite different. However, it’ll be hard to compete with the two years I had here. This was truly the best job I’ve ever had.

As one of my biggest influences, and that of Modern Consensus, once said, “May the road rise with you.”

Updated Dec. 4, 2019 to set the correct byline in WordPress. We were just testing his editing eye one last time… 

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Lawrence Lewitinn, CFA, is editor in chief of Modern Consensus. Disclosures: Lewitinn can be long several cryptocurrencies at any given time. The total amount that he is long is generally less than 10 percent of his total assets.