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Summary:

John Cook, editor of First Look Media’s investigative news vehicle The Intercept, says the site is still trying to hire writers and editors and put an editorial structure together, and so there likely won’t be any new material that isn’t NSA related for some time

As the eagle-eyed investigative journalists at Pando Daily recently noted, there hasn’t exactly been an outpouring of new material from The Intercept — the high-profile First Look Media property that includes newly-crowned Pulitzer Prize winners Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. In a sort of open letter to readers, Intercept editor and Gawker alumnus John Cook said the main reason for the radio silence is that the new entity is still trying to figure out how things are going to work, hiring new writers and editors, and more or less getting down to business.

And when will the finished product be ready? “I don’t know, but soon,” the typically acerbic Cook said in a free-form Q&A session that took place in the comments. Until then, he said, the only new material coming from The Intercept will be news stories related to the NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden — unless, he added, “Glenn Greenwald has some blogging he wants to do, because no one can stop Glenn Greenwald from blogging.” Apart from that, said Cook:

“The Intercept will be narrowly focusing on one thing and one thing only: Reporting out stories from the NSA archive as quickly and responsibly as is practicable. We will do so at a tempo that suits the material. When we are prepared to publish those stories, we will publish them. When we are not, we will be silent for a time.”

The Intercept: A work in progress

pierre omidyar

It’s not really that surprising that The Intercept would still have some work left to do in setting up the organization. While its existence has been known since October, that was (ironically) the result of a leak, and the only person attached to the idea at that point was Greenwald. While backer Pierre Omidyar may have committed $250 million to First Look, finding and hiring good writers and editors, setting up an office etc. still takes time.

When asked what kind of attributes he was looking for in filling out the ranks at The Intercept, Cook was succinct — and possibly also somewhat controversial: “Not white. Not male. Fast,” he said. “Interested in reporting as a live, iterative process that plays out on the Internet, as well as one where you go away for six weeks and come back with 4,000 words.”

John Cook Intercept comments1

One commenter asked whether outside investments by First Look financial backer Pierre Omidyar, including the co-funding of USAID programs in Ukraine — something that was the subject of a long and critical article at Pando in February — would interfere with the editorial process at The Intercept. Cook replied:

“My position is that we have publicly been guaranteed complete editorial independence (https://firstlook.org/about/). Any interference in our editorial work would be an abrogation of that agreement. I have every expectation that it will be honored. Our credibility comes from the work we have done and will do, not from our financial backer.”

Looking for a good comment system

Snowden

When asked what kinds of stories The Intercept would be focusing on outside of the NSA leaks from Snowden, Cook said that he wasn’t targeting specific beats so much as he was looking for an attitude: “Long term, I want the site to be identified more by the posture that Glenn, Laura, and Jeremy exemplify – aggressive, honest, impolite when necessary, and unburdened by the institutional norms that govern the behavior of so many reporters at major establishment news organizations – than any menu of beats or subject areas.”

Not surprisingly, a number of commenters (many of whom seemed to be regular participants in Greenwald-related discussions on other political and news sites) complained about the low-quality commenting system on The Intercept’s website, as well as the fact that a number of critical comments were deleted. Cook said that the site was looking for a good commenting system, but the first priority was to get the editorial structure in place.

At that point, Joel Johnson — editor-in-chief at Gawker Media and Cook’s former colleague — said the site was welcome to use Kinja, the discussion platform that Gawker has been rolling out across all its sites, which (among other things) turns commenters into bloggers. Cook responded that he participated in the beta testing of Kinja, and added “I look forward to such a time as it reaches its full potential.”

John Cook Intercept comments3

Among other things, Cook also said that The Intercept will be covering international stories (but he doesn’t know whether it will have actual bureaus in different countries), that he did not attend a recent symposium of media advisers convened by Omidyar to discuss how First Look should proceed, and that the site planned to publish “a wide variety of stories – short, fast posts to keep the site alive” as well as “lengthy reported narratives to devote attention to stories that need to be told, and all manner of story in between.”

Post and photo thumbnails courtesy of Thinkstock / Dinic, as well as Honolulu Civil Beat

  1. So no white males welcome to the site? Maybe I’ve been misled as to the integrity of the people and site. I have nothing but respect for everyone involved in that site, but that comment gives me pause. It seems to me that ideal would be the very thing they would be against.

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    1. You’re completely missing the point… >_<
      There *is* already a variety of white males in their staff; and it's the most visible demography too, easy to find new names to add…

      And that's the problem: when you want a balanced team, the minorities are much more difficult to find. There are lots of great female and/or non white journalists, but they're not as exposed in MSM.

      So, in order to build such a proper team, they *have to* explicitly look for minorities, or they'll just keep reaping white males and reinforce the global imbalance.

      In short: endgame is proper representation. Looking for «non white, non male» is the *only way* to achieve that, in the current system. ;)

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      1. No I don’t think I’m missing the point. Judging someones abilities, be it for anything, should be blind as to gender, color..etc..etc… By stating and doing exactly the same thing doesn’t change it, it only reinforces the very notion of someone isn’t allowed to be or do something because of their gender and/or color.

        Which is exactly at odds with what should be “the norm”. Or are you trying to tell me that Glenn G. isn’t capable of representing anyone else outside of the white male community?

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        1. You are indeed missing the point and alienkh perfectly explained it. Or maybe you’re being intentionally obtuse and contrarian.

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        2. wow, if you can’t understand that a white male couldn’t possibly write from the point of view of a black male, or a white female, you are “being intentionally obtuse and contrarian.”

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          1. Lets see.

            Growing up in Detroit,.

            Having the holy crap beat out of you on a weekly basis because you’re “bleach boy”.

            Being raped from the age of 4 until 13 on an almost daily basis, by both white and black males.

            During that same time being beat with everything up to a 2×4, and still carrying the scars from it.

            Being passed over for accelerated educational programs because you’re from a white poor single mother family, come from the “wrong side of town”, wrong last name. Dress and smell funny because your mother is more concerned about her next abusive boyfriend, rather then to make sure her children have clean, proper fitting clothes to attend school in.

            Those are just the highlights.

            No one like that could ever understand anything a black male or white female may have had to endure during their life.

            Excuse me while I check my “white male privilege” at the door.

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            1. Yes, this was a major disappointment. I had high expectations of the Intercept in getting out the Truth as a #1 priority no matter where it came from. There is no need for this fashionable statement from Mr. Cook and as I spend my life preaching “Unity” being key in the truth movement, he has just lost me as well.

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      2. The truth has no color, race or religion. Building unity and common ground is Key. Mr. Cook just lost a lot of respect from people of all colors, races, sexes and religions that know the truth is more relevant than the sex of the person it came from. Good bye.

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  2. If by not tolerating any form of discrimination makes me obtuse and contrarian, then so be it.

    By doing that, the only thing it shows, is it’s still ok to put stipulations or exclude just because of someones gender or color. Furthering some of the very things that ills society isn’t going to cure them.

    He could have just as well stated “we’re looking for the best person/people for the job”, but that wasn’t the case. If he had said, “not black and not female”, you know as well as I a shit storm would have ensued.

    They have the worlds eyes and ears, they could use it to show people there’s a better way
    Casting off stigmas that only server to segregate/distance people from one another, is the only way forward..

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  3. Yes!

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  4. Alienkh,

    Your missing the point. The truth movement needs Unity and common ground among people of all races, sexes, religions and so forth if we are to stand as one. Mr. Cook thinks Unity comes second to the the gender of the person providing the information. Someone great once said “United We Stand, Divided We Fall” Mr. Cook needs to be aware of this if we are to make ant head way towards the problems we face. And if your on this site, you know that sexism will be the least of our worries if we do not stand united my friend.

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