CNN: Pierre Omidyar, founder of online auction site eBay, said Wednesday he is teaming up with journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has led reporting on secret U.S. surveillance programs, to create a new online mass media venture. Greenwald announced late Tuesday that he was quitting The Guardian for “a once-in-a-career dream journalistic opportunity” but said he was not ready to give more details. Now Omidyar has confirmed to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that he is behind the new media venture, which includes Greenwald and others — and that he will personally fund it. Greenwald has been at the forefront of a series of high-profile reports based on leaks from former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Journalist Jeremy Scahill and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras will also be joining the venture, Omidyar said. MORE
GLENN GREENWALD: My partnership with the Guardian has been extremely fruitful and fulfilling: I have high regard for the editors and journalists with whom I worked and am incredibly proud of what we achieved. The decision to leave was not an easy one, but I was presented with a once-in-a-career dream journalistic opportunity that no journalist could possibly decline.Because this news leaked before we were prepared to announce it, I’m not yet able to provide any details of this momentous new venture, but it will be unveiled very shortly. MORE
THE GUARDIAN: Glenn Greenwald is a remarkable journalist and it has been fantastic working with him. Our work together over the last year has demonstrated the crucial role that responsible investigative journalism can play in holding those in power to account. We are of course disappointed by Glenn’s decision to move on, but can appreciate the attraction of the new role he has been offered. We wish him all the best. MORE
PIERRE OMIDYAR: I developed an interest in supporting independent journalists in a way that leverages their work to the greatest extent possible, all in support of the public interest. And, I want to find ways to convert mainstream readers into engaged citizens. I think there’s more that can be done in this space, and I’m eager to explore the possibilities. Right now, I’m in the very early stages of creating a new mass media organization. I don’t yet know how or when it will be rolled out, or what it will look like. 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. The team will build a media platform that elevates and supports these journalists and allows them to pursue the truth in their fields. This doesn’t just mean investigative reporting, but all news. As part of my learning process, I recently reached out to Glenn Greenwald to find out what journalists like him need to do their jobs well. As it turns out, he and his colleagues Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill, were already on a path to create an online space to support independent journalists. We had a lot of overlap in terms of our ideas, and decided to join forces. MORE
HUFFINGTON POST: Omidyar, a philanthropist worth around $8.5 billion, founded Honolulu Civil Beat and is an advocate for greater government transparency. He’s closely followed Greenwald’s work on the NSA story, as evidenced by his Twitter feed. Omidyar’s Civil Beat partnered last month with The Huffington Post to launch HuffPost Hawaii. During an interview pegged to the launch, Omidyar spoke about his concerns with surveillance following the NSA revelations. “Can we be truly free if we are surveilled all the time, if we have no privacy?” he asked. “I think that’s a really important debate to have.” MORE
PRESSTHINK: Omidyar believes that if independent, ferocious, investigative journalism isn’t brought to the attention of general audiences it can never have the effect that actually creates a check on power. Therefore the new entity — they have a name but they’re not releasing it, so I will just call it NewCo — will have to serve the interest of all kinds of news consumers. It cannot be a niche product. It will have to cover sports, business, entertainment, technology: everything that users demand.
At the core of Newco will be a different plan for how to build a large news organization. It resembles what I called in an earlier post “the personal franchise model” in news. You start with individual journalists who have their own reputations, deep subject matter expertise, clear points of view, an independent and outsider spirit, a dedicated online following, and their own way of working. The idea is to attract these people to NewCo, or find young journalists capable of working in this way, and then support them well.
By “support” Omidyar means many things. The first and most important is really good editors. (Omidyar used the phrase “high standards of editing” several times during our talk.) Also included: strong back end technology. Powerful publishing tools. Research assistance. And of course a strong legal team because the kind of journalism NewCo intends to practice is the kind that is capable of challenging some of the most powerful people in the world. Omidyar said NewCo will look for “independent journalists with expertise, and a voice and a following.” He suggested that putting together a team of such people means understanding how each of them does his or her work, and supporting that, rather than forcing everyone into the same structure. MORE