Hot on the heels of news that Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos is taking over the reins at the noble, family-owned Washington Post comes word that eBay founder Pierre Omidyar is creating his own mass media organization, with the goal of supporting and promoting independent journalism, free of any messy entanglements from established institutions. What exactly is the world coming to?
Omidyar was one of those approached about buying the Washington Post. He says he was considering the purchase, but for whatever reason Bezos was the one who pulled the trigger. Now Omidyar has decided to get into the game on his own terms. His philanthropic organizations, the Omidyar Network and the Democracy Fund, have already been making impacts in the world of journalism and government accountability. But Omidyar is taking things a step further and partnering with the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald to launch his own media endeavor in support of the public interest.
In a bit of fortuitous synchronicity, Omidyar found that Greenwald was already planning on leaving the Guardian to pursue his own journalistic venture with partners Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill, so after a few talks they agreed to join forces and form this new, as yet unnamed, enterprise. Curiously enough, Omidyar and Greenwald have never met face-to-face, but that hasn't stopped Omidyar from pledging to back the venture with at least $250 million of his own money.
So far, none of the concrete details have been ironed out (what the rollout will look like and so forth), but Omidyar has said, "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."
This effort will not be a project of the Omidyar Network and will not be a charity. The aim of the endeavor is to become the best, all digital, next-generation news organization. This is interesting news for the journalism world in general, but definitely good news for independent reporting. With all the hand-wringing about what's going to happen with print journalism, it's inevitable that this is where the world is headed, and it's going to require individuals who know this space intimately to succeed. The tech world may very well take over journalism after all.