Pierre Omidyar's new digital media venture, First Look Media, recently pledged $550,000 to three journalism organizations to support their commitment to freedom of the press. The grants come only months after First Look launched its first publication and underscores the group's multi-faceted strategy.
Late last year, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar announced his new online media project, First Look Media, which is meant to be a response to the shifting landscape of journalism and reporting in the digital age. The initial publication, launched earlier this year, is part of a network that will eventually cover not just politics and news, but also sports, entertainment, and business, just like any good media venture with designs on the largest possible market share.
Omidyar has been slowly amassing his team, which includes partners Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jeremy Scahill, as well as recruits from the Huffington Post, Washington Post, The Nation, Mother Jones, The New Yorker, and Entertainment Weekly, among many others. In February, First Look launched The Intercept, their first digital magazine, which is currently focused mainly on stories based on the Snowden documents.
Now Omidyar has announced that First Look will be donating a total of $550,000 to three different journalism organizations that they describe as being "at the forefront of integrating freedom of the press with technology."
This includes up to $350,000 over a two year period to the Freedom of the Press Foundation for general operational support; $100,000 to Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press for "a media technology fellow to provide strategic insights around technology issues related to press freedom"; and $100,000 to the Electronic Freedom Foundation for their work supporting encryption efforts and protecting free expression.
Together, these grants represent an alignment that should be clear to anyone following the trajectory of Omidyar's two-pronged plan of attack. As detailed in its announcement, "The funding is part of First Look’s broader strategy to strengthen freedom of the press while introducing new technologies to the journalism industry."
First Look Media is also attempting to build a solid, trustworthy brand that can compete in the ever-expanding media marketplace. It's aiming to do this not just through goodwill and philanthropy, but through multiple revenue streams and shrewdly positioning itself in the already crowded field of digital journalism. Aside from generously helping out these worthy organizations, these grants also signal First Look Media's commitment to core principles.
As First Look’s General Counsel of Media Operations Lynn Oberlander said at the time of the announcement, "The grants represent First Look’s strong commitment to finding new tools that will support the First Amendment. . . Growing the capacity for other organizations to do this work is fundamental to First Look’s mission."