RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story about the U.S. government's massive surveillance program, is quitting the Guardian newspaper. He's leaving the British daily and joining a journalism start-up with eBay founder and billionaire philanthropist Pierre Omidyar.
Joining us from our New York to fill us in on Greenwald's new venture is NPR's media correspondent, David Folkenflik. Hi, David.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Hey, Rachel.
MARTIN: What do we know about this new company?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, not a lot so far. We're seeing the bare outlines of it. I think the news got out before they were ready. But Pierre Omidyar, as you say, the billionaire cofounder of eBay, has decided to turn his attention to create a new digital investigative news shop. If you think about that, you don't have printing presses. You don't have to pay guys to distribute newspapers online.
You know, what he needs to figure out is a business model, but he's saving himself a lot of costs from a conventional newspaper. The other thing I'll say is, you know, with Greenwald, Omidyar is hiring a couple of folks that he sees as exemplars of a kind of adversarial journalism. That is, it's not based on access. It's not based on, gosh, will this cabinet secretary give me a quote.
It's based on what he sees as real revelatory stuff on serious topics, like the national security matters that Greenwald took on in the Guardian.
MARTIN: Do you know anything more about Pierre Omidyar? I mean, he's clearly a successful, very wealthy guy. But that's a big investment, I understand $250 million he's putting into this. He's clearly hoping this bet pays off.
FOLKENFLIK: Yeah, it's not even clear whether this is going to be a charitable operation or a for-profit shop, in which he pours the profits basically back into producing more journalism. I think the $250 million is more notional - just because of the amount of money that it cost Amazon's Jeff Bezos to take over the Washington Post. And Omidyar thought about buying the Post.
But he said, Why not do something from scratch. Why not do something for a digital age, in which he can figure out a way to create verified news coverage, perhaps fill the gaps that he felt the mainstream news organizations were not covering, and also, in figuring out a new connection between audiences, consumers - in a sense, citizens -and the people who are reporting on the news. He thought there was a new model to be found and he's in the very earliest stages of trying to do it.
MARTIN: What about Glenn Greenwald? He had complained in the past that his paper, the Guardian, was hobbled by British media regulations. Is this new venture going to give him more latitude?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, it may very well do just that. You know, in Britain there are far more restrictive laws about what you can and can't report than there are in the U.S. The editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, chafed about that and ultimately decided to share some of the documents obtained from Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker and whistleblower, to the New York Times and to ProPublica here in the states as a way of avoiding the reach of British authorities.
Greenwald himself has gone on an incredible voyage. He's a lawyer. He's an activist. He's been a columnist and a blogger. And he's now been inventing himself at the Guardian, with the collaboration of the editors there, into more of a reporter. You know, there are critics of Greenwald who say he remains the crusading advocate he ever was. And at the same time, you know, he really is trying to apply what he says are analytical tools to the documents that he's obtained to figure out what's newsworthy. And that's in a sense a different role than a pure advocate would play.
Certainly, in the new shop, you know, it'll be very interesting to see how they create editors and colleagues around him to help guide the force of his reporting. I think we really have yet to see how that's going to play out.
MARTIN: NPR's media correspondent David Folkenflik, talking to us from our studios in New York. Thanks so much, David.
FOLKENFLIK: You bet.
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