eBay founder Pierre Omidyar revealed the first publication in his new media organization, First Look Media. “The Intercept” launched last night with revelations about the National Security Agency which had apparently been using the bulk collection of phone records to target terrorists with drones.
The Intercept’s explanatory introductory blog post explains that these types of revelatory stories will be a staple of the news site, keeping with its mission “to hold the most powerful governmental and corporate factions accountable.”
First Look Media made waves in the industry after it had announced that the journalist responsible for revealing the NSA’s controversial spy program, Glenn Greenwald, would be joining as editor. Greenwald and his partner on the original NSA leaks, Laura Poitras, are part of the new site’s small 12-person team.
The breakout story on the NSA drone program clearly establishes First Look Media as an opinionated news site, with unabashed opposition to security hawks. Their first story is sourced from whistleblower Edward Snowden and an anonymous former drone operator, who alleged that the NSA “often identifies targets based on controversial metadata analysis and cell-phone tracking technologies. Rather than confirming a target’s identity with operatives or informants on the ground, the CIA or the U.S. military then orders a strike based on the activity and location of the mobile phone a person is believed to be using.”
Greenwald, in his traditional civil liberties-championing tone, reminds readers that drone strikes have often inadvertently killed innocent civilians, which shows the perils of automated targeting weapons.
Omidyar is shelling out upwards of $250 million for First Look, the very same amount Amazon head Jeff Bezos paid for the Washington Post. It should be noted that Greenwald and Omidyar can only milk NSA leaks for so long, so it remains to be seen how a hard-hitting media site can reach financial viability over the long-term. At least for today, they’ll be making news and that’s a (very) good start.