By Ricky Hager
The student newspaper at Washington College, The Elm, announced its newest fundraising venture last Friday, April 1, as the publication explores the capital potential of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs.
NFTs rapidly entered the public consciousness in 2021 with multiple meme icons, such as Nyan Cat and Overly Possessive Girlfriend, selling the original files of their respective properties for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
While music groups, video game companies, and celebrities have thrown their hats into the crypto arena, exactly what an NFT is continues eluding many Internet users, buyers, and sellers.
In the most basic sense, an NFT is an original token stored on the Ethereum blockchain. Blockchain is the primary crypto housing service, allowing users to exchange and store cryptocurrency and NFTs in their wallets. While cryptocurrency and NFTs are separate concepts, they are intricately involved due to NFTs being stored on Ethereum and their purchase being done entirely in cryptocurrency itself.
Between confusion over the fiscal, emotional, and artistic value of an NFT; rampant art thievery to create NFTs; the immense environmental destruction caused by the minting of NFTs and mining of cryptocurrency; security concerns with a wallet system which does not require you to accept a transfer-in but does require you to pay for a transfer-out; the intense volatility of the currency used to purchase NFTs; the prevalence of pump-and-dump schemes; and fears over privacy when personal and financial information is easy to find on and difficult to remove from the blockchain, many WC community members were struck by The Elm’s decision to pursue NFTs as a path to fundraising.
“Money,” Editor-in-Chief of The Elm Georgiana Washington said.
Washington said that the newspaper was tired of surviving on journalistic integrity and student fees alone, especially as the latter dwindles due to two semesters without student activity fees and a shrinking population. They see The Elm as moving away from the former as well through the introduction of NFTs, hoping the capital they garner for the newspaper will permit them to phase out journalistic integrity entirely from their considerations.
“At a certain point, you make so much money and lose so much trust that you can just coast for the rest of your life. That’s what I want for The Elm. I want it to hit its 100th birthday and never have to produce another piece of carefully reported, fact checked, ethical news again. Really, I’d be happy if it was just movie reviews we wrote while crossfaded,” Washington said.
The current plans for The Elm’s foray into crypto include two primary branches of NFTs.
The first is the exportation of each page of The Elm as its own individual token. Rather than picking up a whole newspaper from Java George, Clifton Miller Library, or another location across campus, desirous students would simply bet upwards of $300,000 USD in ETH coin for one page of one section.
Students interested in reading the entire newspaper can either shell out the money eight to 12 times, beg their friends for a peek at their NFT, or right-click save the files from the betting website.
The other branch of Elm NFTs includes AI-generated articles with riveting titles such as “Local printer jammed again, culprit identified by security video”; “Phishing email scam attacks anti-spam bot”; and “Groveling God beneath Middle Hall is an alpha gamer.”
Each NFT is completely original to The Elm and is minted using the school Wi-Fi because it’s “free real estate,” according to Washington.
Washington added that The Elm decided to also begin its own cryptocurrency known as Goosecoin, named for residents of Goose Nation.
“Yeah, I’ve seen the complaints about slow Wi-Fi, but I got the idea off Yik Yak, and it’s not like it’d be any faster if we weren’t mining crypto. At least this brings some good to the lives of WC students since this could totally go to the moon or something, ha-ha yeah like that’d ever happen, hey wait are you still recording?” Washington said.
The Elm’s prices are based in USD, meaning that if the value of ETH coin drops between purchase and transmission, the remaining total must be paid immediately before transferal of the NFT is made. The Elm said they are not responsible for refunds if the buyer overpays due to a rise in ETH coin’s value.