Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

EBay Founder to Back Journalist Who Broke Snowden Story

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

EBay Founder to Back Journalist Who Broke Snowden Story

Article excerpt

The technology billionaire Pierre M. Omidyar said he would be financing a new "mass media" venture, in which he would be joined by Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian.

and Quentin Hardy

For years, the tech billionaire Pierre M. Omidyar has been experimenting with ways to promote serious journalism, searching for the proper media platform to support with the fortune he earned as the founder of eBay. He has made grants to independent media outlets in Africa and government watchdog groups in the United States. In a more direct effort, he created a news Web site in Hawaii, his home state.

Then last summer, The Washington Post came calling in its pursuit of a buyer. The Graham family ended up selling The Post to a different tech billionaire, Jeffrey P. Bezos of Amazon.

But the experience, Mr. Omidyar wrote on his blog on Wednesday, "got me thinking about what kind of social impact could be created if a similar investment was made in something entirely new, built from the ground up."

Mr. Omidyar also confirmed that he would be personally financing just such a new "mass media" venture, where he will be joined by the journalist Glenn Greenwald, who is leaving The Guardian, the British daily. Mr. Greenwald gained notoriety this summer when he reported on the revelations about U.S. National Security Agency surveillance contained in papers leaked by Edward J. Snowden.

The details of the project are vague. "I don't yet know how or when it will be rolled out, or what it will look like," Mr. Omidyar wrote.

What is clear is that Mr. Greenwald will be there, and he is expected to be joined by Laura Poitras, the documentary filmmaker who was the crucial conduit between Mr. Snowden and Mr. Greenwald. Together, Mr. Greenwald and Ms. Poitras possess an extensive trove of documents from Mr. Snowden related to government surveillance and other secret matters. Mr. Greenwald has made it clear that he has much more material from Mr. Snowden to go through and many articles yet to write.

That means that Mr. Omidyar and his media site could well be in the middle of the tussle between the government and news groups over how to balance a free press against concerns about national security, perhaps making him a new adversary for agencies trying to prevent the disclosure of secret information.

Mr. Greenwald emphasized during an interview Tuesday night that he would not be the editor or manager of the site, saying, "I will be doing the journalism."

Mr. Omidyar wrote on Wednesday that the project was something he "would be personally and directly involved in outside of my other efforts as a philanthropist."

Mr. Omidyar and Mr. Greenwald came together after developing a growing respect that was built around shared causes like protection for journalists and a revulsion at government surveillance tactics. …

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