Pierre Omidyar adds staff to news venture, but who’ll cover Silicon Valley?

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Silicon Valley

Ebay co-founder Pierre Omidyar’s news venture has been adding staff to the as yet unnamed organization, with the latest being New York university journalism professor and news media critic Jay Rosen.

The Omidyar news venture (ONV) is being led by Glenn Greenwald, the former blogger and Guardian newspaper journalist.

Rosen, who has virtually no experience in news journalism, did not say what his role will be in ONV, which is backed with US$250-million of the billionaire’s personal money, the same amount that Jeff Bezos paid for the Washington Post newspaper.

Rosen’s long experience as a news media critic would suit him well to an ombudsman role at OMV, similar to the public editor role created at the New York Times.

Since Omidyar wants his journalists to dig deep in investigative articles that challenge government and corporate “power” his reporters must be seen to adhere to solid principles of journalistic ethics and fairness. Rosen could provide that seal of approval.

Even though he would be paid by ONV, the many years he has been writing books and articles about news media, would provide the media venture with a solid reputation straight out of the box with no history to draw upon. It’s clear that he wouldn’t let his salary jeopardize the huge amount of trust and credibility that he’s built up over many decades.

Edward Moyer at CNET News recently took a look at the editorial team so far:

Eric Bates — Bates was executive editor at Rolling Stone for a decade, and before that he was investigative editor at Mother Jones magazine. At Rolling Stone, he worked with writers Matt Taibbi and Michael Hastings… Bates’ work has won seven National Magazine Awards and has been a finalist another seven times.

[It would be doubly great to get Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, he’s written some of the best investigative articles about Wall Street firms.]

Ryan Devereaux — An independent journalist in New York, Devereaux has written about the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy, the US prison system, the victims of US drone strikes…

Micah Lee — Lee is leaving his position as staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation… Lee’s areas of expertise include cryptography, privacy, and Internet freedoms.

Murtaza Hussain — Hussain has written about foreign policy and civil liberties for The Guardian, Salon, Al Jazeera English, and AlterNet.

Andrew Jerell Jones — He’ll be covering sports…

Dan Froomkin — Froomkin has been the senior Washington correspondent for The Huffington Post. Prior to that, he wrote the popular “White House Watch” column for the online version of The Washington Post.

Liliana Segura — Segura has been an associate editor at The Nation. She’s written about the penal system and the death penalty… as well as various issues, including health care, reproductive rights, and the military.

Greenwald, by the way, started out with a blog called Unclaimed Territory, which was later picked up by Salon. From there he went to the UK’s Guardian. He’s also written several books, including the New York Times bestseller “A Tragic Legacy,” about the George W. Bush presidency.

Silicon Valley coverage?

The team is taking shape but who will cover Silicon Valley? The tech press is very much seen to be in the pockets of VCs and insiders and few trust its coverage. This is where the rubber hits the road in terms of Pierre Omidyar’s commitment to serious coverage of important stories.

He has many friends and alliances in Silicon Valley, how will they feel about investigative stories into the bowels of the tech industry? How will he feel about articles that might make some of his friends uneasy?

There’s some great stories to be done with the right resources. For example, Google is being covered by the tech press as if it were a car manufacturer from Detroit, and major stories are being unreported. Such as:

  • Google plays a vital role in global commerce yet most of its business moves are not reported because journalists don’t understand its business model or how money is made on the Internet. Small businesses are suffering tremendously from Google’s changes in its search algorithm. Omidyar knows how vital small businesses have been to growing eBay.
  • Amazon is in a similar position to Google, and its actions affect thousands of other businesses.
  • The scams many startups engaged in, such as Zynga, in getting started.
  • The faux meritocracy of Silicon Valley’s startups where more than 90 percent of founders are from Ivy League schools, are male, and white or Asian.

There’s many more stories to be investigated and reported about Silicon Valley and the tech industry.

Sustainable — the single most important metric of success

How will a new media venture such as ONV succeed? It’s important that it become self-sustainable and develop a business model that celebrates a new era of journalism — a new media business model that others can copy and create competition in news journalism.

I have some suggestions and will put them up in due course. In the meantime, here are some ideas from Frédéric Filloux writing at “Monday Note.


This article by Tom Foremski originally appeared on Silicon Valley Watcher, a Burn Media publishing partner.

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