People talk about billionaires the way bird-watchers point out rare sightings — wide-eyed and in hushed, anxious tones.
Speculation in media circles has been similarly breathless since the news broke Tuesday that billionaire eBay founder Pierre Omidyar is launching a major news organization with Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jeremy Scahill, some of the world’s leading investigative journalists responsible for exposing the reach of the U.S.’s military and surveillance complex.
According to Jay Rosen, who says Omidyar consulted with him last month, Omidyar is prepared to back the new venture with at least $250 million. Omidyar posted a statement about his plans Wednesday, saying the plan for the digital news organization came together after he considered buying the Washington Post, which Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought in a move that shocked the news industry. That deal, set to close this month, is also worth $250 million.
This isn’t Omidyar’s first foray into online journalism, and a look at his original news venture – where I worked for two years — offers clues about the one to come.
In 2010, Omidyar launched Honolulu Civil Beat, where I took a job as city hall reporter shortly after it launched in March 2010. (Later, I opened the organization’s Washington bureau. I still report semi-regularly for the site.) Media-types routinely ask me what founder Pierre Omidyar is like. Have you actually met him? Does he talk to any of the reporters? Has he even set foot in the newsroom?