Back at it: 'Where Journalism Goes to Die'

Dateline: Tue 03 Mar 2015

Within the last five years or so, as traditional, mainstream, print journalism was morphing, and failing to thrive no matter how many cocktails it wrote about, many of us sincerely and optimistically clung to a belief: "It will be OK. The kids will figure it out."

The rap was that big, generous funders would create a forum for public journalism; richies would subsidize investigative reporting, and all shall be well....young, bright people with a burning thirst for truth and possessed of questioning, first-rate minds would plunge on through the fog and the lies, and present us with brand-new balanced journalism, based on fact, albeit not on news paper but on websites, in podcasts -- whatever.

Alas, all shall be bullshit.

One of the best pieces on this matter is "Where Journalism Goes to Die," by Ken Silverstein, who worked at Harper's magazine and the Los Angeles Times before becoming an investigative reporter for First Look Media.

Here is what Silverstein says, in a piece published Feb. 27 in Politico and picked up by other websites:

"Back when I was hired, First Look and The Intercept (the debut project) were just getting started. It seemed like it was going to be a fantastic opportunity for journalists. I was told that I could basically create my own job and write investigative stories about anything I wanted. I knew at the time little about Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire who founded and funded First Look, but he wasn't a big part of my decision-making."

Silverstein assumed the boss/owner, who founded E-bay, "must be a decent guy" since he was funding the enterprise to the tune of $250 million. He was also encouraged by First Look's top dogs: Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill, who told the story of Edward Snowden's unmasking of the National Security Agency. Serious talent, big kahunas. 

However, the organization unraveled, according to Silverstein, in a period of six months or so, in an inability to make decisions, a failure to stick to deadlines, a penchant for getting beat-out of major stories by competitors and a general huge amount of hand-wringing over such silly nonsense as expense accounts (paying for drinks for Washington, D.C., sources -- it's a must).

I found First Look because it had done solid work looking at the other side of a hugely popular (with the 30-something set) podcast, Serial, that offered up some of the sloppiest reporting I've ever encountered. Without going into a diatribe over Serial, suffice to say that First Look had challenged the NPR reporter Sarah Koenig, and did so successfully.

I was looking forward to reading more, since First Look obviously was capable of goring sacred cows, but alas...another one bites the dust, at least from Silverstein's seasoned perspective.

Here's the complete story. The title alone, "Where Journalism Goes to Die," is worth your time to read it...


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