NSA foe Greenwald whips his new media venture into shape

With the help of eBay founder and billionaire Pierre Omidyar, Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who broke the NSA story this summer, is putting together what he hopes is a newsgathering dream team.

Greenwald gears up for some "adversarial journalism." One of the profession's main missions, he's said, is to "provide a truly adversarial check on those in power." Here, he testifies on surveillance in front of an investigative committee of the Brazilian senate. Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images

Glenn Greenwald -- the journalist who got the scoop on the NSA's mass surveillance programs courtesy of whistle-blower Edward Snowden -- has been busily assembling the team for the new online publication he's co-creating with $250 million in backing from eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

And a series of tweeted announcements by Greenwald over the last few days gives a glimpse of how the closely watched venture's editorial focus is shaping up.

In an ironic, Snowdenesque twist, news of the venture leaked to BuzzFeed last month, generating a flurry of discussion in media and Internet circles.

The New York Times featured a public sparring match between Greenwald and Bill Keller, a Pulitzer Prize winner and former executive editor of the paper. That's because, as Keller put it in his intro, "the disruptive power of the Internet raises...profound questions about what journalism is becoming, about its essential character and values."

Keller and others are uneasy over Greenwald's outsider status -- he began his career as an attorney and moved into journalism by way of blogging -- and his "activist" approach to the news, which, they say, could undermine the quality of his reporting. They're also worried about more Fox Newses.

"I believe the need for impartial journalism is greater than it has ever been," Keller wrote, "because we live now in a world of affinity-based media, where citizens can and do construct echo chambers of their own beliefs. It is altogether too easy to feel 'informed' without ever encountering information that challenges our prejudices."

Greenwald, for his part, accuses some in what he calls the "establishment press" of failing to stand up to the powers that be, and he's questioned Keller's ostensibly impartial approach. The mainstream media's "toxic habits...reward dishonesty on the part of political and corporate officials who know they can rely on 'objective' reporters to amplify their falsehoods without challenge (i.e., reporting is reduced to 'X says Y' rather than 'X says Y and that's false')," he wrote in the exchange with Keller.

He's also said his practice of letting readers know his stance at the outset is actually more honest than the pose assumed by traditional media -- of an objectivity that's in fact impossible to achieve. And he's said that "ultimately, the only real metric of journalism that should matter is accuracy and reliability."

Greenwald's venture with Omidyar -- and fellow founders Laura Poitras, the Academy Award-nominated documentary-film maker Snowden initially contacted, and Jeremy Scahill, an investigative reporter for The Nation and author of the New York Times bestseller "Dirty Wars" -- gives Greenwald and the others a handsomely funded chance to demonstrate the validity of these ideas.

Greenwald has been recruiting for the venture -- temporarily called NewCo -- and his selections make it clear that he intends for this new publication to walk his talk.

Here are the new members we know about so far. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Eric Bates
Bates was executive editor at Rolling Stone for a decade, and before that he was investigative editor at Mother Jones magazine. At Rolling Stone, he worked with writers Matt Taibbi and Michael Hastings. Bates had a hand in Taibbi's lauded exposés of Wall Street and in Hastings' profile of US Army general Stanley McChrystal, then commander of all US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. The Hastings piece led to McChrystal's resignation. Bates' work has won seven National Magazine Awards and has been a finalist another seven times. Here's a video from 2010 of Bates discussing Hastings' piece "The Runaway General":

Ryan Devereaux
An independent journalist in New York, Devereaux has written about the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy, the US prison system, the victims of US drone strikes, and other topics for Greenwald's alma mater, The Guardian, as well as Rolling Stone and The Nation.

Micah Lee
Lee is leaving his position as staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation to sign on with Greenwald, Poitras, Omidyar and Co. Lee's areas of expertise include cryptography, privacy, and Internet freedoms. At EFF he maintained HTTPS Everywhere, an extension for the Firefox and Chrome browsers that encrypts users' communications with many major Web sites.

Murtaza Hussain
Hussain has written about foreign policy and civil liberties for The Guardian, Salon, Al Jazeera English, and AlterNet.

Andrew Jerell Jones
Jones is a freelance writer in Brooklyn whose work has appeared in Ebony, The Raw Story, and Talking Points Memo. He's also appeared on HuffPost Live. He'll be covering sports for the Greenwald-Omidyar venture, but as he puts it in a recent post on The Daily Kos, "I'm going to at least be doing sports there, but since culture, race, and class issues can be complicated for those in this country that didn't grow up in an American ghetto or hood like me, then I'll provide some perspective on that as well if need be." Here's a HuffPost Live segment about athletes and politics that features Jones (he jumps in at 0:3:16):

Greenwald announced two other NewCo initiates late last month. They are:

Dan Froomkin
Froomkin has been the senior Washington correspondent for The Huffington Post. Prior to that, he wrote the popular "White House Watch" column for the online version of The Washington Post. When he was let go by the Post, Greenwald wrote a column about the firing, celebrating Froomkin's desire to serve the public rather than a given political party. "One of the rarest commodities in the establishment media," Greenwald wrote, "is someone who was a vehement critic of George Bush and who now, applying their principles consistently, has become a regular critic of Barack Obama." Froomkin said at the time, "I think that the future success of our business depends on journalists enthusiastically pursuing accountability and calling it like they see it. That's what I tried to do every day." Froomkin was also deputy editor of the Nieman Watchdog blog for the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard.

Liliana Segura
Segura has been an associate editor at The Nation. She's written about the penal system and the death penalty for that publication, as well as various issues, including health care, reproductive rights, and the military, for AlterNet. She's on the board of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. Here she is in a 2010 video talking about surveillance:

Greenwald, by the way, started out with a blog called Unclaimed Territory, which was later picked up by Salon. From there he went to the UK's Guardian. He's also written several books, including the New York Times bestseller "A Tragic Legacy," about the George W. Bush presidency.

 

About the author

Edward Moyer is an associate editor at CNET News and a many-year veteran of the writing and editing world. He enjoys taking sentences apart and putting them back together. He also likes making them from scratch.

 

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