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The Intercept is the first of several nonprofit online magazines Pierre Omidyar will be publishing, all of which he says will 'reimagine journalism'.

To some people, when wealthy individuals get involved in the media it never turns out well. But really, the issue isn’t that Conrad Black and white.

  Pierre Omidyar, billionaire founder of eBay, hopes his media production company, First Look Media, will “reimagine journalism for the digital age.” On Feb. 10, he launched the first of a series of nonprofit magazine packages, the Intercept. Omidyar has already invested $50 million into First Look Media and has promised a further $200 million to come.


 Omidyar, in collaboration with Glen Greenwald, one of the editors of the Intercept,are looking to change the way journalism is conducted. According to Omidyar’s website, they want to create a self-sustaining multimedia journalism platform that has the power “to convert mainstream readers into engaged citizens.”

In an interview with the Guardian, Greenwald said, "We want to avoid this hierarchical, top-down structure where editors are bosses and obstacles to being published… We are trying to make it much more collaborative. Our journalists have a variety of tools to make their writing better and one of them is the editor.”


 "Part of the reason he thinks he can succeed with a general news product, where there is a lot of competition, is by finding the proper midpoint between voicey blogging and traditional journalism, in which the best of both are combined," Jay Rosen, professor of journalism at NYU and advisor to First Look Media wrote on his website, Press Think,


 First Look Media will consist of several separate but intersecting entities. One entity will house the journalism operation and it will be registered as a nonprofit under U.S. law. As a nonprofit, Omidyar hopes quality journalism will thrive, as journalists will have the freedom to report without having to answer to profit-driven shareholders.


 Omidyar is considering several revenue sources to ensure the Intercept and all other publications following it are self-sustaining. One option is a profit-seeking company specifically focused on technology for producing, distributing and consuming news, views and information. Any profits generated by this company would go toward supporting independent journalism.


 But Paul Dechene of the Regina alternative news magazine Prairie Dog is skeptical. “Everything winds up being compromised,” he said, adding “not optimistic at all” for the success of the Intercept and the other media produced by First Look Media.


But he said the fact that it is a nonprofit means there are no shareholders, which is good because “shareholders… don’t care if the product is necessarily fulfilling the ideals (of the publication) just as long as they are fulfilling the bottom line.”


 Derrick O'Keefe, former editor of said the idea of First Look Media “is all very encouraging” but he shares in Dechene’s skepticism to an extent. “There are legitimate concerns about (Omidyar’s) political and economic interests and how that might influence the new publication,” he said. But, it is “an exciting development because of the journalists who have signed on,” he said.


 These journalists include former Guardian journalist and multiple best-selling author Glen Greenwald, 2012 Macarthur Fellow documentary maker Laura Poitras, and former Nation journalist and international best-selling author Jeremy Scahill. Greenwald and Poitras also were the ones to publish Edward Snowden’s documents and exposed the scale of domestic surveillance under Obama, which is why the Intercept’s first few publications will be surrounding the NSA.


“I don’t think people of this caliber are going to sign on if they’re not guaranteed to have a lot of independence about what they can write about,” O'Keefe said.


 The Intercept is just the first of several online magazines that will be published under First Look Media. According to First Look Media’s website, each magazine will be focused on a specific topic, have its own editorial voice and will be headed by an experienced journalist. Matt Taibbi, a former Rolling Stone contributor with a formidable reputation for coverage of the global financial crisis, will be the editor of the next publication due out later this year.


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