‘First Look’ takes off

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Glenn Greenwald. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
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Nicole Levy

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Glenn Greenwald still has a lot of work left to do—and a new $250 million news enterprise to build—with the font of material leaked to him by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

“We’ve certainly released less than half of not just the material [Snowden] gave us but the material that we think is newsworthy," the journalist said in a Monday evening appearance on Al Jazeera America. "There’s a lot more reporting left to do. These documents are complicated, and they take time to get right. And accuracy is our first concern.”

The next morning, Omidyar announced his news organization, which had been going under the TBD-style name "NewCo," has been renamed First Look Media. A trademark application for the name "First Look" was filed on Aug. 30 by a law firm associated with Omidyar.
In addition to providing  initial funding of $50 million, which represents 20 percent of his already-stated total commitment, Omidyar will serve as the publisher for the media organization.
First Look will include coverage across a wide range of verticals including politics, government, entertainment, lifestyle, sports, business and others, according to a release from the company.

But, according to Jay Rosen, newly appointed an adviser to the company, First Look will also include a for-profit technology company that will develop new media tools and a nonprofit entity that will support independent, public-interest journalism.

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"[The] journalism operation is a non-profit, housed within a parent company, which may have other entities inside it. The entire operation is designed to support the mission of independent public service journalism, achieve sustainability and attract talent," Rosen wrote.

Greenwald said last night that he plans to spend months reporting on and releasing “every last document that is in the public interest that’s newsworthy, and that doesn’t endanger the lives of human beings” from the Snowden material.

The interview, with anchor John Seigenthaler, was pegged to the news earlier this week, that a federal judge had ruled unconstitutional the N.S.A.'s domestic phone data mining, a practice made public by the Snowden leaks. It was a by-satellite affair; Greenwald was plugged in from a studio in his home base of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Greenwald's life has changed "radically" since he reported the Snowden documents, including his professional allegiances.

He left the British newspaper The Guardian in October for the quarter-billion dollar embrace of eBay co-founder Pierre Omidyar and the new media outlet for independent journalism they plan to launch together.

So it appears the nonprofit cornerstone of First Look, is the remainder of the Snowden files—and the reputation Greenwald has built irrespective of his employer, or rather because he doesn't have a legacy-media employer at all anymore: With the new undertaking Greenwald is now unfettered by the constraints (well-judged or otherwise) that might be imposed on using leaked documents by, say, The New York Times or The Washington Post or even the The Guardian, which published Greenwald's first round of Snowden stories.

First Look could certainly trade on its status as a middle-ground destination for leakers between the old-guard media and wilder frontiers such as WikiLeaks, an opportunity Greenwald may have been alluding to when he said: “I think my new visibility that I have, and the new platform is much greater than before, which allows me to speak out on things like the dangers of surveillance, and the importance of privacy and internet freedom."

What some of these other verticals and technological enterprises Rosen refers to may be we will have to wait, he wrote, to hear about as they develop.

Editor's note: An original version of this article was published before Omidyar's announcement; you can read it as it appeared at 10:45 a.m. on Dec. 19 here.