This past year, civil liberties attorney cum Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald exploded into the national consciousness, when he began publishing stories on the inner workings of the NSA, culled from leaker Edward Snowden’s trove of stolen documents. In October, Greenwald announced that he would be leaving the Guardian, to helm a new journalistic site, funded by eBay founder, Pierre Omidyar. Today, that company got its name. Here’s what we know about First Look Media:
1. Omidyar Has Committed $250 Million to the Venture
According to NYU professor Jay Rosen’s blog Press Think, Omidyar was one of the people approached by the Washington Post company, before the company sold its paper to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. In exploring that transaction, Omidyar began thinking seriously about what he’d hope to achieve from investing in a news company. When the NSA leak stories began to appear in The Guardian and Washington Post last summer, Omidyar became became alarmed, then inspired, to launch a news organization “capable of sustaining investigative work and having an effect with it.” Greenwald claims to be in possession of thousands of yet-to-be published NSA documents.
When Rosen asked exactly how much he was prepared to invest in such an organization, Omidyar replied that the $250 million the Post would have cost would be his starting line. While the memo released by Omidyar today announces an initial investment of only $50 million, it stipulates that this “first capital outlay represents 20 percent” of Omidayar’s present commitment to the organization.
2. First Look Media Will Have a For-Profit Tech Wing
First Look Media will be divided between a company designed to develop new media technology, and a separate nonprofit journalistic organization. The memo emphasizes that the news wing will enjoy editorial independence, and whatever profits the technology company may enjoy will be “committed to support First Look’s mission of independent journalism.”
3. The Actual Publication Has Yet to Be Named
While the company as a whole is called “First Look Media,” the actual name of the digital publication Greenwald will be running has yet to be determined.
4. Not Everyone In the Journalistic Community Is Thrilled
In depth blog post on eBay/paypal extensive collaboration with law enforcement does raise some questions about NewCo http://t.co/OptBNox1FH
— Marshall Kirkpatrick (@marshallk) December 15, 2013
There is already significant skepticism towards the venture, among a portion of the left and libertarian journalistic communities. News site NSFWcorp, wrote an extended piece looking into Omidyar’s history investing in controversial micro-finance programs, which provide loans to impoverished third worlders, to help them get small farming operations off the ground. The idea is if such investments can show a profit, capital will be inspired to flow into such regions voluntarily, providing far more economic help than simple charity ever could. NSFW corp alleged that in reality, such loans tend to load up the third-world poor with massive debt, citing an AP report on an epidemic of suicides in a small Indian slum called Andhra Pradesh:
“”More than 200 poor, debt-ridden residents of Andhra Pradesh killed themselves in late 2010, according to media reports compiled by the government of the south Indian state. The state blamed microfinance companies – which give small loans intended to lift up the very poor – for fueling a frenzy of overindebtedness and then pressuring borrowers so relentlessly that some took their own lives.”
NSFW corp questioned whether Greenwald and his organization would truly enjoy enough independence to critically cover such investment programs.
Criticism has also focused on the fact that eBay was revealed to have been in cooperation with the NSA in the past decade. The Daily Banterlists 4 questions they believe Greenwald should answer about the venture, including whether there are any contractual agreements between Greenwald and Omidyar about which remaining NSA files will be published.
In the comments section of a new post at Press Think published today, Rosen answers questions from several of the venture's critics:
— Mathew Ingram (@mathewi) December 19, 2013
5. Several Big Name Journalists Have Already Joined the Publication
Besides Greenwald, other journalists current committed to thew new organization are former Rolling Stone editor Eric Bates, investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, fournalist and filmmaker Laura Poitras, press critic Jay Rosen, among others/
— Mathew Ingram (@mathewi) December 19, 2013