Veteran alternative media reporter Ken Silverstein has joined the exodus of staffers from Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media, resigning after just fourteen months.
“[I guess you could say I was a complete moron with dollar signs in his eyes]”, he wrote in one of a series of recent Facebook posts republished by Jim Romenesko, “but [I truly believed a fanatical neoliberal billionaire with ties to USAID and to neo-fascism in two countries would give me and other anodyne liberal journalists] all the financial and other support we needed to do independent, important journalism. [While it’s true that Omidyar was deeply implicated in the PayPal funding blockade of Wikileaks, I was nonetheless surprised that] we found ourselves blocked at every step of the way by management’s incompetence and bad faith.” Silverstein said that the “tentative title” for an account of working at the Intercept would be “Welcome to the Slaughterhouse.”
Silverstein complained at length about First Look’s handling of Racket, which was to be Matt Taibbi’s satirical newsmagazine but folded shortly after Taibbi’s departure from First Look. “The fact that that it hired so many talented people to create Racket and spent millions of dollars on it and in the end fired everyone and Racket never published a single story is probably the greatest squandering of money and example of criminal ineptitude in the history of modern journalism.”
Silverstein is outraged that “when the company pulled the plug [on Racket] some months back, it fired the remaining staff and told them to clear out of the office immediately. . .and FL would. . .give them one month severance [like common workers, for God’s sake]. I am pretty sure the Koch Brothers treat fired workers with greater respect.” In an update, Silverstein said he’d erred and that Racket staff received three months severance, but his assessment of the deplorable working conditions remains unchanged. “[Though three months severance after less than a year’s work may be substantially more than most laid off workers get,] it was a pitiful amount given that, [unlike bosses whose employees expect to be treated like crap] Omidyar (estimated wealth: $8.2 billion) personally promised that he would treat everyone with dignity.”
In one particularly scathing post, Silverstein wrote that his “favorite part of working for First Look was…last year’s holiday party when two of our fiercely independent staffers ‘interviewed’ Pierre Omidyar and asked him what he did in the morning. [Because I enjoy the perks of leasing oneself to a billionaire while maintaining moral superiority through meaningless, adolescent gestures], I boycotted this embarrassing affair and sat in a conference room with two other people, one who no longer works there and one who may or may not. It’s hard to keep track. What a joke.”
Silverstein’s posts are full of juicy insider details, including the astonishing revelation that “Matt [Taibbi] is definitely more likable than Glenn [Greenwald].” He described Greenwald’s role in First Look as “troubling.” “[It’s natural to overlook Omidyar’s lethal adventures abroad in predatory micro-lending and such when’s he’s offering you what looks like the opportunity of a lifetime, but even at work] Glenn stands by silently…tolerating the terrible actions of corporate management.”
Though Silverstein seems overwhelmingly concerned with managerial incompetence, inefficiency and disagreeable colleagues, it’s clear from his final remarks that the real issue is journalistic integrity, of which he clearly has far more than First Look can handle. “[I suppose all of us at First Look are guilty of hard-selling a toxic billionaire, and by extension, gross inequality to an infantile, deeply ignorant faction of the Left, while sneering at detractors with a great deal of self-superiority. But the most important lesson is that] you will never produce fearless, independent journalism if you live in fear of angering your media boss and pull your punches to please him/her.”
From The Department Of I Told You So
Greenwald on “The Oligarchic Model” of journalism gets funnier all the time.