Non-profit

First Look Media

Website:

firstlook.media

Location:

NEW YORK, NY

Tax ID:

80-0951255

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2016):

Revenue: $10,533,419
Expenses: $15,799,407
Assets: $28,380,652

Formation:

2013

Type:

Nonprofit Publisher

First Look Media is a research and media organization founded by eBay co-founder Pierre Omidyar in partnership with controversial left-of-center activist journalist Glenn Greenwald, perhaps best known for collaborating in the mass disclosure of classified national security documents by Edward Snowden, a former U.S. government contractor residing in Russia as of early 2019. [1]

First Look is the parent company of the digital magazine The Intercept, which it launched in February 2014 to publish material leaked by Snowden and to engage in “adversarial journalism” on other matters. [2] First Look Media has become notable for aggressively publishing leaked classified information, even beyond what was provided by Snowden. [3]

First Look Media also launched an entertainment studio, Topic Studios, that creates podcasts and digital video productions and funds feature films. [4] It has a non-profit arm called First Look Media Works (FLMW), which houses the Press Freedom Defense Fund, an organization that pays legal fees for journalists as well as convicted leakers of classified documents. [5]

Founding and Leadership

In October 2013, it was reported that Greenwald would be leaving the Guardian to create a new media organization with significant financial backing. [6] It was later reported that the backing came from Omidyar. [7]

Omidyar, an eBay co-founder with a net worth estimated at $12 billion as of March 2019,[8] had originally been approached as a potential purchaser of the Washington Post. He stated that in the process of considering that offer, he became interested in challenges facing modern journalists and in starting a new media organization with the same investment of $250 million that would have been required to purchase the Washington Post. He got in contact with Greenwald, who was planning to start his own media company with a similar vision, and the two decided to partner. [9]

In addition to Omidyar and Greenwald, First Look Media involved collaboration from documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras and investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill. Poitras had previously worked with Greenwald and Snowden to create the documentary CitizenFour, defending and glamorizing Snowden’s leaks of classified national security documents. Scahill is an investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker who was previously employed at The Nation.

While Greenwald and Scahill remain employed at First Look Media as editors of The Intercept,[10] Poitras left in 2016 to return to her career as a documentary filmmaker. [11]

The Intercept

First Look Media’s flagship media outlet is The Intercept, an online news publication dedicated to what it describes as “adversarial journalism.” The publication initially served as a platform to report on the documents released by Edward Snowden, with the stated goal of expanding to report aggressively on other topics involving governments and corporations. [12] Gawker editor John Cook was named editor-in-chief of The Intercept in March 2014. [13]

The publication has been involved in controversy from the beginning. Its first story was a report about NSA involvement in the U.S. targeted killing program and lethal drone strikes. The story declined to use the term “targeted killings” to refer to the U.S. drone strikes, instead calling them “assassinations.” [14] TechCrunch referred to this editorial choice as clear evidence of The Intercept’s “unabashed opposition to security hawks.” [15]

Numerous articles in The Intercept have cited leaked classified documents. In August 15, 2014, the FBI launched a probe into how classified information was leaked to The Intercept for its article revealing details about a database of terrorism suspects. It raided the home of the suspected leaker. [16]

In January 2015, The Intercept published a guide headlined “How to Leak to The Intercept,” including information on how to conceal behavior from law enforcement and strip metadata from documents. The guide prompted accusations that The Intercept was inviting criminality and potentially helping foreign intelligence agencies. Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare wrote that if he were a foreign intelligence operative he would “use the opportunity to drop disinformation on journalists who have shown they will believe just about anything if it’s disparaging of U.S. intelligence.” [17]

The Press Freedom Defense Fund

In May 2017, First Look Media, through its non-profit arm First Look Media Works, launched the Press Freedom Defense Fund to provide legal support for journalists, news organizations, and whistleblowers “targeted by powerful figures.” Its beneficiaries have included Reality Winner, who leaked classified information for The Intercept’s controversial report on the FBI terrorist watch list. [18]

Grants from the fund have also been used to support challenges to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) denials, in which journalists were denied access to government information, and motions to eliminate subpoenas seeking journalistic sources. [19]

The Fund is led by James Risen, a former New York Times journalist who claimed to have received threats from both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations for his work. He has made statements critical of conservative media, including that it has “grown on the back” of a sense of victimization and resentment towards the press. [20]

Film Production and Other Projects

In 2017, First Look Media launched the photo and video website Topic.com and Topic Studios. Topic creates podcasts and digital media, while also funding feature films, including Spotlight, the 2016 Academy Award-winner for Best Picture. Many of the narrative and documentary films it finances feature government wrongdoing as a principal theme.

Failed projects of First Look Media include Reported.ly, a social media news service led by Andy Carvin; and Racket, a publication to focus on financial and political corruption headed by Matt Taibbi, which never launched. [21]

References

  1. Reitman, Janet. “Snowden and Greenwald: The Men Who Leaked the Secrets.” Rolling Stone. December 4, 2013. Accessed March 18, 2019. https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/snowden-and-greenwald-the-men-who-leaked-the-secrets-104970/. ^
  2. Greenwald, Glenn and Laura Poitras. “Welcome to the Intercept.” The Intercept. February 10, 2014. Accessed March 14, 2019. https://theintercept.com/2014/02/10/welcome-intercept/ ^
  3. Rosen, Jay. “Why Pierre Omidyar decided to join forces with Glenn Greenwald for a new venture in news.” PressThink.org. October 16, 2013. Accessed March 14, 2019. http://pressthink.org/2013/10/why-pierre-omidyar-decided-to-join-forces-with-glenn-greenwald-for-a-new-venture-in-news/ ^
  4. First Look Media. “About.” Accessed March 14, 2019. https://firstlook.media/about/ ^
  5. First Look Media. “The Press Freedom Defense Fund.” Accessed March 14, 2019. https://firstlook.media/freedom-of-press-defense-fund ^
  6. Smith, Ben and Rosie Gray. “Exclusive: Glenn Greenwald Will Leave Guardian To Create New News Organization.” BuzzFeed News. October 15, 2013. Accessed March 14, 2019. https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/bensmith/exclusive-glenn-greenwald-will-leave-guardian-to-create-new ^
  7. Hosenball, Mark. “Here’s who’s backing Glenn Greenwald’s new website.” Reuters. October 15, 2013. Accessed March 14, 2019. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/15/glenn-greenwald-pierre-omidyar_n_4103026.html ^
  8. “Pierre Omidyar.” Forbes. Accessed March 18, 2019. https://www.forbes.com/profile/pierre-omidyar/#54b5190466da. ^
  9. Rosen, Jay. “Why Pierre Omidyar decided to join forces with Glenn Greenwald for a new venture in news.” PressThink.org. October 16, 2013. Accessed March 14, 2019. http://pressthink.org/2013/10/why-pierre-omidyar-decided-to-join-forces-with-glenn-greenwald-for-a-new-venture-in-news/

    Rosen, Jay. “Why Pierre Omidyar decided to join forces with Glenn Greenwald for a new venture in news.” PressThink.org. October 16, 2013. Accessed March 14, 2019. http://pressthink.org/2013/10/why-pierre-omidyar-decided-to-join-forces-with-glenn-greenwald-for-a-new-venture-in-news/ ^

  10. “About & Contacts – The Intercept.” The Intercept. Accessed March 18, 2019. https://theintercept.com/about/. ^
  11. Poitras, Laura. “Field of Vision is Moving.” The Intercept. September 20 2016. Accessed March 14, 2019. https://theintercept.com/2016/09/20/field-of-vision-is-moving/ ^
  12. Greenwald, Glenn and Laura Poitras. “Welcome to the Intercept.” The Intercept. February 10, 2014. Accessed March 14, 2019. https://theintercept.com/2014/02/10/welcome-intercept/ ^
  13. Greenwald, Glenn. “The Intercept Welcomes Its New Editor And Two New Writers.” The Intercept. March 10, 2014. Accessed March 14, 2019. https://theintercept.com/2014/03/10/intercept-welcomes-new-editor-two-new-writers/ ^
  14. Wemple, Erik. “Glenn Greenwald and the U.S. ‘assassination’ program.” The Washington Post. February 10, 2014. Accessed March 14, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2014/02/10/glenn-greenwald-and-the-u-s-assassination-program/?utm_term=.5a55fcd8e039 ^
  15. Ferenstein, Gregory. “eBay Founder’s News Site, The Intercept, Launches With NSA Revelations.” TechCrunch. March 2014. Accessed March 14, 2019. https://techcrunch.com/2014/02/10/ebay-founders-news-site-the-intercept-launches-with-nsa-revelations/ ^
  16. Sanchez, Raf. “FBI raids home of suspected Snowden copycat.” The Telegraph. October 28, 2014. Accessed March 14, 2019. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/11193451/FBI-raids-home-of-suspected-Snowden-copycat.html ^
  17. Wittes, Benjamin. “The Intercept’s Invitation to Criminality—and to Intelligence Agencies.” Lawfare. January 29, 2015. March 14, 2019. https://www.lawfareblog.com/intercepts-invitation-criminality-and-intelligence-agencies ^
  18. First Look Media. “The Press Freedom Defense Fund.” Accessed March 14, 2019. https://firstlook.media/freedom-of-press-defense-fund ^
  19. Peters, Jonathan. “Press freedom group to deploy $1M Bezos gift, its largest ever, on local level.” Columbia Journalism Review. May 24, 2017. Accessed March 14, 2019. https://www.cjr.org/united_states_project/bezos-grant-rcfp-press-freedom.php ^
  20. Bonn, Tess. “Press advocate says conservative media feeds off victimization, resentment.” The Hill. February 15, 2019. https://thehill.com/hilltv/rising/430206-press-advocate-says-conservative-media-feeds-off-victimization-resentment ^
  21. Somaiya, Ravi. “Matt Taibbi Is on Leave Only Months After Joining First Look Media.” The New York Times. October 28, 2014. March 14, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/business/media/matt-taibbi-is-on-leave-only-months-after-joining-first-look-media.html ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

Child Organizations

  1. The Intercept (Non-profit)

Coalition Memberships

  1. Institute for Nonprofit News

Donation Recipients

  1. Participant (For-profit)
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: November 1, 2015

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2016 Dec Form 990 $10,533,419 $15,799,407 $28,380,652 $661,770 N $10,351,395 $252,641 $116,488 $869,112
    2015 Dec Form 990 $34,610,688 $19,740,936 $33,850,246 $894,806 N $34,882,970 $0 $2,858 $1,922,939 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $11,505 $11,830,092 $19,613,485 $1,527,797 N $0 $0 $11,505 $2,110,875 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $30,767,119 $862,844 $30,122,995 $218,720 N $30,865,150 $0 $1,899 $0 PDF

    First Look Media

    114 5TH ST AVE 18TH FLR
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