|Sun Feb 9 2014 12:15:19|
Will eBay Founder Omidyar's First Look Media Make Waves?
By: Julia Wilkinson
eBay Founder Pierre Omidyar is starting a news outlet called First Look Media. In the site's animated video, he describes it as "a new kind of marriage between a technology company and a new kind of newsroom," and that one of its goals will be to "make it easier for journalists to deliver the transformative stories we all need."
Omidyar is known as a philanthropist, and has put his money where his mouth is (in this case, he is reportedly investing $250 million in the First Look venture). His Omidyar Network - with its funding of many altruistic initiatives such as microfinance web site Kiva, and the open-government-promoting Sunlight Foundation, according to this piece in The Economist - "practises "venture philanthropy" - developing a non-profit start-up in the same way as a new business venture, except for not expecting it to make money one day."
One could arguably also say he is an optimist, as one of his founding tenets for eBay was that "people are basically good." And with his foray into media, he joins other ecommerce titans such as Jeff Bezos, who recently bought The Washington Post for $250 million.
But with his hiring of Glenn Greenwald, known as the reporter with the key to Edward Snowden's NSA leaks, for the First Look venture, he may also be showing he is not afraid of controversy. Snowden has been called everything from a hero to a traitor. And Snowden will be a key part of First Look's first digital magazine, launching next week: "The magazine, which will be the first in a series of single-topic online publications from First Look, will focus on Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks," according to this piece in AdWeek.
The title will apparently be announced via Twitter. Omidyar is no stranger to Twitter, and in fact his interest in journalism played out in a public Twitter debate about journalists' obligations to protect sources, and under what circumstances, summarized here via Pando.
While many hail Snowden and Greenwald as bravely exposing threats to our civil liberties and government over-spying, some see Snowden's actions as hypocritical and "with gravely destructive effect," such as Edward Lucas in this Wall Street Journal piece.
Even The Washington Post has published criticism of Snowden: He "has taken sanctuary in Russia, a country that, when it was under communist control, epitomized the idea of a surveillance state," and today "is a quasi-democracy that has retained some features of its communist past." And further "over the past decade or so, under the tutelage of President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, it has been sliding ever deeper back into authoritarianism."
And Robert Samuelson wrote that while we "should debate the NSA...The NSA controversy has "significantly damaged the trust between the private sector and government." This may be the Snowden affair’s most insidious (and overlooked) consequence."
The Snowden affair notwithstanding, Omidyar's new venture promises to be interesting. As Omidyar says in the First Look site video, "journalism is about telling stores that make a difference." And if the organization is successful, "we will have contributed to the greater good."
What do you think of this new media venture by eBay's founder? Post a comment here!