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October 18, 2013 4:06 PM   Subscribe

Pierre Omidyar announces his Next Adventure in Journalism and plans to ‘free’ independent journalism. Jay Rosen interviewed him.
posted by adamvasco (26 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
The idea of a not-evil Murdoch is very pleasing...
posted by lattiboy at 4:20 PM on October 18, 2013


Ok, could someone answer this question for me: why is Greenwald jumping ship at the Guardian now, instead of when this super-awesome-whatever-it-is is actually up and running?

I remain to be convinced otherwise, but this new project sounds like another incarnation of the Huffington Post to me: rich tycoon finances supposedly progressive Internet media portal. The big names of Scahill / Greenwald give it some more credibility, but still...
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 5:38 PM on October 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


sounds like another incarnation of the Huffington Post

Except I assume Glenn Greenwald is expecting a paycheck of some sort.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:44 PM on October 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


On a more serious note, I had the same misgivings:

I love Greenwald and think he is one of the most important journalists working today, maybe the most important. But the whole project smacks of dot-com/"TED talk" blinkered arrogance- thinking they can reinvent an industry and instantly do better than people with hundreds of years of experience. Like those people who think Tesla is better qualified to build an electric car than Honda or Toyota or Nissan because the founder is a "genius." Or the folks at Uber gorging on venture capital thinking they invented the taxi, when all they invented was bad service and stealing the tips from the drivers.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:48 PM on October 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Here are a couple more hostile takes on the story.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 5:54 PM on October 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Greenwald's involvement gives me hope, but it's hard to get excited about all these resources being put into a single new journalistic endeavor rather than lowering the barriers for many new endeavors. Companies like Sourcefabric seem much more beneficial to me in this respect, providing open source tools for journalism.
posted by jason_steakums at 6:00 PM on October 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dr jimmy,
I get what you are saying but in the case of tesla v Honda, the employees of Honda are the ones with the knowledge and experience, not the corporation. Same for a news organization. In both cases, a new entity allows individuals from the industry to take risks and actually try newer ideas out.
It isn't like some Ted talk bozo is going at it alone
posted by mulligan at 6:04 PM on October 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


all these resources being put into a single new journalistic endeavor rather than lowering the barriers for many new endeavors

Not to mention that there are plenty of progressive news sources under severe financial strain ... WBAI, FSRN, etc. You don't need $250M to keep those guys up and running, to say nothing of expanding them...
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 6:06 PM on October 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


What makes you think the goal of this media organization is supposed to be like progressive media one?
posted by mulligan at 6:09 PM on October 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm looking forward to this.
posted by grounded at 6:09 PM on October 18, 2013


What makes you think the goal of this media organization is supposed to be like progressive media one?

Well, exactly. The way things are shaping up, this media organization doesn't seem like it's going to be progressive at all.

This contrasts with the journalism that Scahill and Greenwald were doing previously, which I think could be fairly described as progressive. Another reason that I find this whole thing puzzling.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 6:11 PM on October 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


But the whole project smacks of dot-com/"TED talk" blinkered arrogance- thinking they can reinvent an industry and instantly do better than people with hundreds of years of experience.

1. No one has hundreds of years of experience. What they have is what they've learned from their predecessors -- and in the case of the press, most of what's really good actually comes from the last few decades. The age of Hearst was hardly a great one for the press, and it really wasn't all that long ago.

2. The world changes, and as time passes it's changing faster. Arguably, it's the experience of past ages, much of which is of diminishing relevance, that is responsible for many of its failings now, especially how cozy it's gotten with positions of power, both to keep corporate masters and advertisers happy and to retain access.

3. How else is he going to try to change things? Fix the system from within? The only news organization with real guts these days is The Guardian, and even they've hedged a bit lately with their stewardship of the Snowden secrets.

Not that I wholly welcome this news. I hate the idea that we need Rich Uncle Jesus to save the press.
posted by JHarris at 7:04 PM on October 18, 2013


Fascinating joining of forces.

Related: an interview with Jeremy Scahill (happy birthday).

Oddly, I'm feeling the opposite reaction than the one I experienced upon learning Microsoft bought Skype, and Amazon acquired Goodreads.

Not sure, though, that there's an opposite of the ".". Not quite the opposite response, maybe something like this: (!).
posted by simulacra at 7:08 PM on October 18, 2013


(Note: "Rich Uncle Jesus" crack not intended to say anything about one's religion. Just my way of derisively referring to people looking for some kind of messiah figure to rescue them.)
posted by JHarris at 7:09 PM on October 18, 2013


Adrienne LaFrance talks about working with Omidyar at Civil Beat concluding
Based on what I’ve seen from Omidyar, he believes journalism is a vehicle toward a better functioning democracy.
Greenwald, Scahill and Poitras make a pretty strong base to any investigating team. Interestingly Scahill is the only one of the three who still lives in the US. I wonder how long until he feels he might be better off somewhere else.
posted by adamvasco at 7:41 PM on October 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Noisy Pink Bubbles, I too came here to link to the powerofnarative blog, but to the previous post, where the author makes the case that Greenwald/Snowden suffer from the same flaw that Wikileaks' innovation revealed - that withholding source documents is used to protect a narrative.

If one could comment on the site, I would have argued that the view presented of Snowden revealing his identity may be incorrect. I feel like Snowden believed the NSA would quickly identify him as the source anyway and the early parts of the story would be around where and who he was - so little is lost by revealing himself in an effort to forego that diversion. The validity of that belief is disputable - especially if Snowden had used Wikileaks submission tool. I don't find the argument that he couldn't have vetted every document (not all pages) entirely convincing, or that journalists feel entitled to withhold documents, given completeness speaks to their authenticity but a published excerpt suffices to convince a public. It's an interesting perspective nonetheless and I don't want to derail.

What struck me from watching Mediastan (where a newspaper in Kazakhstan is funded by a US philanthropist, resulting in a refusal to publish stories of local import) and the recent story on Democracy Now about Rick Bourke is how the rich and powerful are finding ways to protect their interests controlling the narrative worldwide.

While I'm a regular reader of the journalists mentioned in association with this project, I already seek out and have access to their perspective. Putting them in one place may be convenient for readers, but it certainly doesn't break with or threaten the existing narratives - rather it strengthens the perception that they are selling one. The Wikileaks model is frightening to the powerful because access to the raw data makes it extremely difficult for anyone to control the narrative, and I think change is only going to come from their model, not more of the current one.
posted by bigZLiLk at 10:53 PM on October 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had not considered it from the perspective of them trying to protect their narrative. That's an interesting angle, although really all leaks do the same, since there's no use in leaking non-controversal information.
posted by JHarris at 12:00 AM on October 19, 2013


not sure what his recent political activity is like but Omidyar was a George W. Bush backer in 2000. This doesn't necessarily make him a bad person at all but I'm surprised Greenwald didn't mind given how ideologically purist he seems to be
posted by Bwithh at 12:28 AM on October 19, 2013


Greenwald supported the war in Iraq for a while as well. People change their minds all the time. It's a shame that ideologues don't recognize that.

As for wealthy philanthropists funding journalism, well, the single best investigative journalism outlet, Propublica, gets about 50% of its funding (the last time I checked one of their 990's anyway) from its founders, the Sandlers.

People need to start recognizing that in many (though certainly not all) newsrooms, the person funding it in no way dictates coverage.

Putting them in one place may be convenient for readers, but it certainly doesn't break with or threaten the existing narratives - rather it strengthens the perception that they are selling one.

They are selling one. It just happens to be one you're sympathetic to. In Rosen's article, Omidyar explicitly explains that this isn't just going to be a one-stop leak narrative shop. It's going to be a single serving news site like some of the places these people already work, but he is going to encourage them to use strong voices and he's going to try and foreground this kind of content. But it won't be the only content:

What I can tell you is that the endeavor will be independent of my other organizations, and that it will cover general interest news, with a core mission around supporting and empowering independent journalists across many sectors and beats.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 6:13 AM on October 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Adversarial muckrakers + civic-minded billionaire = a whole new world.
$250 million is a whole pile of cash when you consider ProPublica has spent just $43 million in five years.
So whether anyone likes it or not is irrelevant as this is going to happen, and the result should (hopefully) be very interesting.
posted by adamvasco at 6:45 AM on October 19, 2013


Yes, sympathetic to their view, but doubt anything interesting will result.
posted by bigZLiLk at 6:47 AM on October 19, 2013


Counterpoint
posted by bigZLiLk at 7:40 AM on October 19, 2013


I love Greenwald and think he is one of the most important journalists working today, maybe the most important. But the whole project smacks of dot-com/"TED talk" blinkered arrogance- thinking they can reinvent an industry and instantly do better than people with hundreds of years of experience. Like those people who think Tesla is better qualified to build an electric car than Honda or Toyota or Nissan because the founder is a "genius."

I know what you're saying, but consider that qualification isn't everything. Depending upon how you want to look at it, large established players in an industry are either incentivized to keep things fairly steady state just doing gradual refinements or tend to be incapable of doing anything other than that. Generally speaking, an established organization's response to changing market conditions is to keep doing what they've always done but try to do it ever more efficiently. (I work for a large organization currently stuck in this trap, to my endless frustration.) Left to their own devices, Honda would probably keep tweaking gasoline powered cars for the next 20 or 30 years. An upstart will come along and realize "Hey, there's no way I can do gasoline engines better than Honda, I need to change the game" and boom, you get Tesla. Or SpaceX. Or the iPhone. Think of this as the difference between local and global optimization.

In short: It doesn't matter if the established players are theoretically more capable if they're also unwilling or incapable of acting. Execution counts.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 9:48 AM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


google search on (omidyar libertarian) is interesting.
posted by bukvich at 3:26 PM on October 19, 2013


NSFWCorp: The Extraordinary Pierre Omidyar
By Mark Ames, and Yasha Levine
The world knows very little about the political motivations of Pierre Omidyar, the eBay billionaire who is founding (and funding) a quarter-billion-dollar journalism venture with Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill. What we do know is this: Pierre Omidyar is a very special kind of technology billionaire.

We know this because America’s sharpest journalism critics have told us.

In a piece headlined "The Extraordinary Promise of the New Greenwald-Omidyar Venture", The Columbia Journalism Review gushed over the announcement of Omidyar's project. And just in case their point wasn’t clear, they added the amazing subhead, "Adversarial muckrakers + civic-minded billionaire = a whole new world."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:20 AM on November 16, 2013




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