“Journalism is more than telling stories; it is about telling stories that make a difference,” says founder of eBay Pierre Omidyar. The Iranian American entrepreneur and philanthropist has broadened his business horizons beyond the digital auction hub. Omidyar has launched an initial peek into his new media venture, called First Look Media, with a digital magazine called the Intercept.
The Intercept was first launched on Feb. 10 of this year and featured an article about the NSA’s role in the US drone assassination program. The article was co-written by an investigative journalism powerhouse trio comprised of Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jeremy Scahill. These three journalists have become the leading professionals exposing the crimes, violence, and illegal and immoral activity conducted by many branches within the US government including the NSA, Department of Defense, CIA, and the White House.
Greenwald is best known for publishing the classified documents that were given by whistleblower Edward Snowden in the British newspaper The Guardian during June 2013. These documents revealed the illegal spying that the NSA has conducted, including surveillance on millions of American phone and email records in addition to tapping into the private information of foreign leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Poitras is an American filmmaker, currently residing in Berlin, who received attention for releasing the first interview with Snowden that revealed the whistleblower’s motivation for stealing millions of classified US documents and opening them for public view.
Scahill is the world leader in investigating the legitimacy of US drone warfare in countries including Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, and even the US. Scahill is the producer, writer, and star of the recently nominated Academy Award documentary entitled Dirty Wars.
First Look Media is a growing enterprise with ambitious future goals. They plan to create distinct digital magazines that are focused on specific topics including national security, environmental issues, sports, entertainment, business, technology, and more. Each one of these topics will have its own website run and edited by a leading journalist in the specified field.
What separates this approach to journalism from mainstream media sources is that you will not find advertisements for Chanel, BP, or Exxon next to articles on climate change, income inequality, or any article published by First Look Media. Mainstream media is almost entirely funded by massive corporations that, rather ironically at times, are the forces responsible for devastating news stories in the first place. Journalism is an essential tool for any properly functioning democracy. When private corporations and politicians are able to influence what news gets published and what news does not, the function of journalism is undermined and potentially unable to fulfill its job in society, which is to keep the population informed of serious issues that affect all human life.
Journalists are being held under increasingly tight surveillance by the US government as courageous whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden break stories about the illegal and questionable actions taken by the country’s leaders. Just this past August, Glenn Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, was detained in Heathrow airport while traveling home to Brazil. There was no lawful reason for his detention except for the fact that he has close ties with Greenwald, who is in communication with people like Edward Snowden. Miranda was searched and questioned for nine hours, being forced to hand over his laptop and hard drives, for which he had an expectation of privacy. Orwellian acts of scrutiny are being administered to many journalists who are simply conducting their jobs in the most productive ways. First Look Media will provide a safe and protected place for journalists to publish investigative reporting at a time when such independent voices are desperately needed.